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Residents press Progress Energy for details on high-voltage lines

EAST LAKE — They came from all over, with all kinds of questions.

More than 150 people — many from North Pinellas but also a big contingent from Hillsborough County — showed up Monday during the first two hours of Progress Energy Florida's open house at the Crescent Oaks Country Club.

If the utility decides to build a nuclear power plant in Levy County, it could need to put 200 miles of new high-voltage transmission lines in 10 counties, including Pinellas.

Many wanted to know where their homes were in relation to the corridors that the power company has identified as possible routes for the lines.

"I was worried about that," said Rosa Santiago, who came from Odessa in Hillsborough County with her daughter and son to look at the maps.

Others raised questions about the electromagnetic fields created by transmission lines, the process of choosing where the lines would go, even the need for nuclear power, period.

Progress Energy representatives, about two dozen strong, said they welcomed the questions. They set out data sheets and mixed with residents, answering questions and offering information.

"We try to capture information that everyone would want to know," said Gail Simpson, Progress Energy's manager for public policy and constituency relations.

In Pinellas, the utility's plans have raised alarms for officials and others responsible for the well-being of the 8,300-acre Brooker Creek Preserve.

Initially, county officials understood from a Progress Energy consultant that the utility might need a half-mile-wide corridor through the preserve.

Last week, however, the company said the most it would need is another 125-foot-wide strip alongside an existing power line right of way.

"It's still too much land," said Barbara Hoffman of the Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve. "It turns out it's about 150 acres, and to us, even one inch is too much."

Others were similarly opposed to the new lines coming anywhere near them.

"Northdale says no to power line expansion," said Northdale Civic Association president Bill Castens, his arms crossed resolutely across his chest. "Our neighborhood is 30 years old, and we don't believe we should pay in property value and health concerns for the growth of Florida. Put the infrastructure where they are growing."

Last week, Progress Energy sent out letters to thousands of local property owners inviting them to a series of open houses, the first of which was Monday.

The letters told residents that their property might be within a possible one-mile corridor where the utility will need to select a route for the new transmission lines. But some left the meeting little more satisfied than when they arrived.

When 88-year-old Justininas Lokys moved to Crescent Oaks, he said he made sure to buy a home away from high-tension lines. Now, 10 years later, he said he has to worry about them again.

"Uncertainties," he said. "Still uncertainties."

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

.fast facts

To learn more

Progress Energy Florida officials will hold more public information open houses in other counties that could be affected if a nuclear power plant is built in Levy County:

Hillsborough

• Alfano Conference & Banquet Center, 11606 N McKinley Drive, Tampa, from 4 to 8 p.m. today.

• Tampa Marriott Westshore, 1001 N. West Shore Blvd., from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Hernando

• Silverthorn Country Club, 4550 Golf Club Lane, Spring Hill, from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday.

• Silverthorn Country Club, 4550 Golf Club Lane, Spring Hill, from 3 to 7 p.m. March 4.

Polk

• The Lakeland Center, Lake Hollingsworth Meeting Room, 701 W Lime St., Lakeland, from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

For updated project and meeting information, go to the Web site progress-energy.com/energyplanning, e-mail energyplanning@pgnmail.com or leave a message toll-free at 1-888-238-0373.

Residents press Progress Energy for details on high-voltage lines 02/26/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 26, 2008 11:56am]

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