Coral Gables to study impact of proposed power lines

CORAL GABLES, FLORIDA - Acting on the concerns of residents in the city and nearby communities, leaders in Coral Gables want to find out the impact of controversial proposed new power lines that could traverse part of the city as part of Florida Power & Light's expansion project.

City Manager Pat Salerno got approval from the City Commission to hire a consultant to analyze the impact the new lines proposed along U.S. 1 will have on nearby residents.

“And to ensure there would be no impact to our fire communications system at the nearby fire station,” Salerno said.

For months, FPL has had public meetings to discuss plans to build lines along its existing corridor between the Turkey Point power plant and a substation at Southwest 138th Street and 127th Avenue as well as add corridors toward downtown Miami and the northeastern areas of Miami-Dade.

Residents in South Miami, Coconut Grove, Cutler Bay and Pinecrest have expressed concern about possible health hazards, particularly for children, of electric and magnetic fields emanating from high-voltage power lines.

They also fear declining property values due to the visual impact and additional danger from lines downed during storms.

Salerno said the city won't get details from FPL until June, when the utility expects to file its application for construction in the Gables. But he wants to be ready.

“It's really for us to be prepared so that, once we've received the package of information from FPL, that we don't just have to take FPL's word for it that there will be no negative impact on the residents,” the manager said. “We want to have an independent way to validate what they are telling us.”

City Attorney Elizabeth Hernandez and Public Works Director Al Delgado have had ongoing meetings with FPL representatives on the project and Hernandez said the city will evaluate the project between now and its submission in June.

“Then we can recommend whether or not public information meetings should be held,” Hernandez said.

Both Mayor Don Slesnick and Commissioner Ralph Cabrera said the city may want to reconvene a task force formed in 2006 to look into the reliability of electrical service after a bad hurricane season.

“I think this is going to become a very serious issue,” Cabrera said.

“I see other municipalities take a position on it. I think it was wise to say ‘let's look at it closer before taking a position.’”

Commissioners in neighboring South Miami voted against the utility company's proposal earlier this month. They asked FPL to look at alternate routes along sections of the Palmetto, Dolphin or Don Shula expressways and said they would support state legislation that gives cities more control over how utility projects are implemented in their areas.



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