Broward News

Welcome to the Everglades Ranch Where FPL Might Build a Big-Ass Power Plant

Welcome to our new blog series "Holy Crap, That's Big," where we write about humongous things going up in South Florida and the people behind them. Today's item: a proposed fossil-fuel power plant in the middle of the Everglades.

It's a quiet, open hunting preserve right now, but if power demand continues to increase and FPL takes the plunge, this 3,127-acre plot of majestic live oaks and dark cypress stands will be home to a humongous natural-gas power plant.

The property is up the street from Seminole land, at the edge of Hendry County. It's accessible by a long, narrow road from the Miccosukee gas station on I-75. You drive through the res and keep going until the land opens out on both sides. Just past a dirt-road turnoff, there it is: a bunch of scrubby fields, dotted by swelling cypress groves and live oaks older than your grandparents. It's quiet out here.

The 3,000 acres belong to Florida Power & Light now, after it paid $40 million for it last June to Virginia Beach-based developer Eddie Garcia. The property is still named for the McDaniel family, which continues to own land surrounding it.

The plant will be one of the largest fossil-fuel plants in the nation, according to environmentalists, and while solar power will be a component, it'll be based on gas, likely obtained through the controversial practice of hydrofracturing. FPL estimates the plant would support 100 full-time jobs -- though there are no homes around the site, which would mean a long commute or a need for on-site housing.

We won't get into the politics just yet -- though the Seminoles have issued legal challenges, and environmentalists argue that the plant would quash extremely valuable habitat for Florida's 150 or so remaining panthers. And FPL hasn't even decided to build the plant for sure: It's an option for future expansion. Right now, a trip to the much-discussed site is a momentary escape from civilization.

The only sounds are the bugs and birds, until you get a little farther up the road, to the power lines. This is one of the reasons the property is so attractive for a future power plant: High-tension wires run clear across it, ready to hook up the natural-gas generators to your TV set.

When you drive under the lines, you can hear them crackling in the air, little snaps of electric potential. Right here, brain cancer can't be far from your mind.

On a recent trip, we found panther tracks and digested animal remains along the dirt road bordering the property's southern edge. Also, a couple of hunters leaving the preserve in a pickup truck and a blistered old sign for an old zoning hearing, earlier in the long process that has led this from wind-whistlin' ranchland to the next best hope for your air conditioning unit.

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Stefan Kamph
Contact: Stefan Kamph