It's a very real possibility that Florida Power & Light could put power lines through Everglades National Park. These would bring power from the Turkey Point nuclear power plant to points northward. The only time to object in person is tonight, at a public meeting at Florida International University.
Here's the back story, as explained by Matt Schwartz, director of the South Florida Wildlands Association: a long time ago, Florida Power & Light bought up tracts of private land that ran north and south, expecting that one day it might need to add more power lines. Twenty-five years ago, with the Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act of 1989, park boundaries were expanded. Suddenly, FPL's land was now inside the park. Congress authorized the National Park Service to buy the land from FPL.
In 1996, the park service moved to buy the land for $110,000. The park service warned that if FPL didn't agree, the agency would move to seize the land through eminent domain.
For whatever reason, the park service never followed through on its threat, leaving us in a conundrum today.
Schwartz says that in 2009, a federal omnibus public lands bill authorized another plan: the Park Service could, rather than try to buy or seize FPL's land, instead trade it for a north-south tract on the eastern side of the national park -- still inside park boundaries.
Problem is, now FPL has the leverage.
One way or another, the park service needs to get FPL out of the way, Schwartz explains. "You know the new bridge they just built at Tamiami Trail? This corridor is directly below the new bridge. We don't have flowage --- water is not flowing under it and one of the reasons is that FPL's old utility corridor is underneath it." So the park needs that land for Everglades restoration.
But rather than just passively owning the land, FPL intends to start building utility poles, part of its intention to add two new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point. (That's a whole separate bad idea, Schwartz says. "Climate scientists say we're going under [water with sea level rise], and they want to put two new nuclear reactors right next to the one that got hit full-force during Hurricane Andrew and lost communication and outside power?)
"It's a shame," he says. "In 1996, the price was was $100,000; now, FPL is going to jack it up." He says he's heard whispers that FPL will ask for $100 million.
Still, Schwartz says, this is the best option. Then FPL will figure some other way to buy up private land and put its corridor outside of the park. Schwartz explains that a draft Environmental Impact Statement has been done. It specifically states that buying out FPL and forcing the utility to go elsewhere is the "environmentally preferred alternative." He says FPL is "already working on alternative corridors."
He doubts FPL would just try to build its utility poles on the corridor it owns now -- "They could try but it's highly unlikely to get it permitted by the Army Corps."
But he's afraid the park service will opt for the land swap because "they don't even have to come up with money" to buy FPL out.
Here are details about tonight's meeting from Schwartz, via a guest post he wrote for the Eye on Miami blog:
Heavy turnout in support of ALTERNATIVE 2 - which leaves no room for misunderstanding - is important.
Date: February 19, 2014 Time: 5:30 to 8:30 pm Location: Florida International University-Stadium Club 11310 Southwest 17th Street, Miami Florida, 33199 The Stadium Club is located within the FIU Football Stadium between gates 2 and 3.
Google Maps link is here:
If you can't make it to the meeting you can also send written comments - hopefully in support of Alternative 2 - here. Comments will be accepted until March 18th.
Sorry for the lack of a petition to sign on to - but National Park Service policy is to treat all signers as a single response. Your unique comments - doesn't matter how long - are the way to go here.
Feel free to send me any questions or comments with regard to this email. And if you can, donations to South Florida Wildlands Association - link below - are essential to this work and always very appreciated.
Please pass this on - turnout on Wednesday is very important. Everglades National Park will be a very different place if we don't stop this now.
Send story tips to Deirdra.Funcheon@BrowardPalmBeach.com
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