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Communication vital on possible power line

A Times Editorial
Published February 7, 2008


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Both sides are doing exactly what they should regarding the possibility that a new high-voltage electric transmission line could be erected through a portion of North Pinellas.

Progress Energy is organizing public meetings to inform residents and take their questions.

And North Pinellas residents are gearing up to keep an eye on what develops.

There is no need for panic. Whether the new lines will be built is still an open question. However, since the possibility of new lines has become public, Progress Energy needs to respond openly and often to residents' concerns. And residents would be wise to watch for news and begin thinking about how a new transmission line could affect their communities.

Florida needs more electricity to power the state for the future. To help meet that need, Progress Energy Florida is considering building a nuclear power plant in Levy County, which is north of Citrus County. If the plant is built - and Progress Energy won't even decide whether to pursue the idea until later this year - the power generated there would have to be transmitted throughout West Central Florida.

The power company has sketched out some rough corridors within which the necessary high-voltage lines and electric substations could be located. The sketch shows one of those potential corridors slicing across the extreme northeast corner of Pinellas, where the Brooker Creek Preserve and Eldridge-Wilde well fields are located. There are some subdivisions nearby, but that corner is generally less populated than the rest of Pinellas.

Controversy always follows when a new high-voltage corridor is proposed. The lines and towers cut an unattractive swath across the landscape, and some people fear that the electricity surging through the lines could somehow affect their health.

One of the neighborhoods that could be impacted if the lines go across northeast Pinellas is Crescent Oaks at the intersection of East Lake Road and Trinity Boulevard. A representative of Progress Energy met with Crescent Oaks residents at the January meeting of their homeowners association. The representative couldn't or wouldn't tell residents many of the details they wanted.

Crescent Oaks is used to keeping a wary eye open for encroachments. Residents there opposed a county plan to build athletic fields inside the Brooker Creek Preserve, lobbied to change plans for a county water blending plant and agitated for road improvements. No apathy there. Residents will follow Progress Energy's plan closely and ask the right questions.

Progress Energy says it is too early for anyone to be concerned, because the company has not even asked the state for permission to build the nuclear plant, much less defined exactly where the transmission lines would go. But public information meetings are being organized already in potentially affected counties, including Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough and Hernando.

Progress Energy might face opposition to its plans, but it is less likely to also face suspicion if it shares all the details with the public, starting now.

[Last modified February 6, 2008, 21:31:03]


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