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Progress Energy open house draws crowd

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Levy County residents get first look at path of transmission lines

By Chris Van Ormer

CRYSTAL RIVER — Residents swarmed the National Guard Armory in Crystal River Tuesday to look

 

at maps of the potential routes of Progress Energy Florida’s new

transmission lines.

“We sent out about 6,000 letters in the whole area,” said Gail T. Simpson,

manager, public policy and constituency relations for Progress Energy.

By a rough estimate, at least 500 residents attended Tuesday’s open house.

The parking lot at the armory was overflowing.

Inside the armory, residents lined up to see how close their property would

be to the potential transmission corridor. Each resident could input his or

her address for an aerial view on a computer screen. A staff member from

Progress Energy would then explain how close the corridor would be to the

property.

The lines affect residents in Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties and largely

follow the path of existing lines. This is one of three main segments of the

transmission corridor. The other two segments will run from the Oldsmar area

of Pinellas County to Kathleen in Polk County, and from Levy County to the

Wildwood area in Sumter County.

The proposed transmission lines could pass through the counties of Citrus,

Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Levy, Marion, Pinellas, Polk and Sumter.

“Because we’re largely following the path of an existing transmission line,

we will be able to minimize the impacts on the community and environment

from the line that runs from the proposed Levy plant to the Brooksville West

substation in Hernando County,” said Jeff Lyash, president and CEO of

Progress Energy Florida. “We have actively solicited community input about

this project, and, overwhelmingly, people suggested we locate the new lines

along existing lines wherever possible. We listened to that feedback.”

However, the proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County will require new

rights of way in southern Levy and northern Citrus counties.

“Out of 200 miles of transmission corridors, less than 35 homes will be

impacted in all of the counties,” said Jessica E. Lambert, senior generation

communication specialist with the Crystal River Nuclear Plant.

The corridor from Levy County to Brooksville would impact 20 pieces of

property, she said, but only five had homes on them.

The corridor in Levy County is about 705 feet wide, Simpson said, and no

land had yet been acquired. Rights of way acquisition will begin this year,

she said, after the corridors have been approved.

“Anyone affected will be contacted,” Simpson said.

The utility has said that the transmission lines must be increased to keep

up with expected growth in service demand. It expects demand to grow by 25

percent within the next 10 years.

The types of structures used for the power lines could change, too. Some

will be single concrete or steel poles between 90 and 150 feet tall. Lines

carrying the higher power of 500kV could be single poles or H-frame

structures that range from 120 to 175 feet tall.

Whatever the appearance, it would spoil the view for one Crystal Manor

homeowner.

Mick Gillette questioned the utility staff because he said the transmission

line would be 100 feet from his property line.

“The power lines are in my back yard,” Gillette said. “It took me two years

to build my house. Why didn’t they tell me before I started building?”

In a statement about property values, the utility said impacts from

transmission lines could be difficult to measure.

Construction of the lines is planned to begin in 2012, with the project

expected to be in service in 2016. It will require approval by the Florida

Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies.

The next open house will be Thursday, Jan. 22, from 4 to 7:30 p.m. at the West Citrus Elks Lodge, 7890 W. Grover Cleveland Blvd., Homosassa.

 

Chris Van Ormer can be contacted at cvanormer@chronicleonline.com.