Progress Energy plans paths for new lines

DADE CITY, FLORIDA - Progress Energy officials are expected to make an announcement about where they plan to put high-power transmission lines to expand service, and a grass-roots group wants to make sure Pasco County doesn't fall within the proposed path.

The group's leader, Fred Krauer of Oakstead, presented a petition to the county commission with 3,000 signatures from residents opposing the power line project along State Road 54.

"We were looking to try to eliminate the northern corridor," Krauer said, referring to a swath that cuts through Seven Springs and runs south to Hillsborough County. Gail Simpson of Progress Energy said the company is responding to growing needs for power.

Pasco is one of the fastest-growing areas in the utility's territory, she said, and the size and number of new houses necessitates expansion of the power grid.

The company does, however, plan to use existing power line corridors as much as possible and avoid taking homes, Simpson said.

"We're planning for your future energy needs," Simpson said. "We never had the intention of taking a lot of homes or running through communities. In some cases, there may be a little bit of right of way needed, but in large part we can use existing lines."

The company will have maps on its Web site where residents can type their addresses and find out whether their homes are in the path, Simpson said. Once Progress Energy submits an application to the state Department of Environmental Protection, the county commission plans to hire a consultant to analyze the path and determine whether it will adversely affect Pasco, County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder said.

"They haven't even filed an application," he said. "While it's good to be ready, it's not at the point where the clock is running." Progress Energy plans to build a nuclear power plant in Levy County to serve an expanding territory. About 200 miles of transmission lines would be needed to bring power to customers. The DEP and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission would need to approve the plans.

Progress Energy is considering several routes for the transmission lines, including existing power fields and highways in counties from Levy to Hillsborough and Pinellas to Polk. Three of the mile-wide study areas cross through Pasco, one hugging State Road 54.

The utility has 1.7 million customers in 35 Florida counties and anticipates 300,000 more customers by 2017.


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