BROOKSVILLE — County commissioners want Progress Energy to put the transmission lines it hopes to run through Hernando well out of sight. Preferably, underground.
With the utility putting the cost of burying the lines at roughly $10-million a mile, however, that appears unlikely to happen.
That didn't stop the commissioners from deciding unanimously last week to send a letter to the utility strongly recommending that the lines go underground and that they stay within the existing utility corridor through Spring Hill.
On Wednesday, county attorney Garth Coller fired off a letter with the board's demands, including that Progress Energy use the "best available technology" in Hernando when the lines are built.
Realizing they don't have the authority to dictate to the utility, the commissioners said they would appeal to Gov. Charlie Crist and the state Cabinet if needed.
The commissioners are not alone in their concerns about Progress Energy's plans to run high-voltage lines 200 miles from its complex in Crystal River and a proposed nuclear plant in Levy County all the way to Polk County.
Since the company announced its plans earlier this year, residents have worried about the possible impacts.
"It's like a terrorist group trying to take over a community," said John Bloom, president of United Communities of Hernando County, a group of local subdivisions, some of which may be affected by the new lines. "We're totally against it."
Preliminary plans in Hernando call for using the existing routes that cut through heavily populated Spring Hill, or running new lines along the Suncoast Parkway. New lines could also go up along Citrus Way in the northern part of the county.
Nearly 23,000 Hernando residents have received letters from the company notifying them of the project.
If the company chooses to run the new lines above ground, it would need a strip of land up to 250 feet wide. When it comes to expanding existing lines, the amount of additional land needed is unclear.
By contrast, an underground route would require digging a minimum 16-foot-wide trench at least 6 1/2 feet deep to accommodate the lines.
Only 1 percent of Progress Energy's lines are currently underground, near Bartow, said spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs. Nationally, about 3 percent of power transmission lines are underground.
Transmission lines differ from smaller types that typically run through neighborhoods, Jacobs explained. Not only is the voltage higher, but the type of technology and expertise they require is much more complex.
And they cost more — up to 10 times more than lines built above ground. On average, the cost is about $10-million a mile, she said.
"And while underground lines have fewer outages, (the outages) will last significantly longer because the problems are harder to find and fix," Jacobs said. "In addition, they can be affected by saltwater intrusion or flooding."
The lines are being planned in three main segments: from the proposed nuclear plant in Levy County to the Leesburg area in Lake County; from Levy County south to Hernando County and potentially into Pasco and Pinellas counties, and from Tarpon Springs to Kathleen in Polk County.
Construction is to begin in 2012, with the approval of state agencies, and completion is expected in 2016. The company plans to announce its preferred corridor later this month.
Staff writer Barbara Behrendt contributed to this story. Chandra Broadwater can be reached
or (352) 848-1432.
200 miles of high-voltage lines Progress Energy wants to run.
$1om per mile. Cost of running those lines underground.
1 percent of Progress Energy's lines that currently run underground.
2012 Year the transmission line project is slated to start.
Learn more and weigh in
Find more information about the proposed power line plan online at progress-energy.com/energyplanning. Or send e-mail to email@example.com or leave a message toll-free at 1-888-238-0373.