Progress Energy will not be expanding its transmission lines through Pasco County, utility officials said Monday.
The utility had considered a routing option, strongly opposed by residents here, that envisioned new lines running east-west along State Road 54 and north-south through the Starkey Wilderness Park, or along the Suncoast Parkway or through several west Pasco subdivisions.
But on Monday, Progress president and chief executive officer Jeff Lyash said none of those options would be used.
"The public process was very useful," he said. "It was important we put all the potential solutions on the table at the start. As it turns out, Pasco is not affected."
State Sen. Mike Fasano said Progress called to inform him on Monday of its decision. He had attended a residents' meeting in New Port Richey earlier this month to oppose the project.
"I was very pleased to hear Pasco was going to be held harmless," he said. "All of the concerns people had, and rightly so, can be laid to rest."
Neighbors and officials, who had vowed legal action to block the utility's plans in Pasco, greeted the news with relief.
"Wow," said Fred Krauer, a resident who had organized petitions and a neighborhood meeting for communities along the SR 54 corridor. "I'm just in total shock right now. All weekend long, I thought, 'Oh boy, this is going to get nasty.' "
"Progress has to be applauded for listening to citizens' concerns and taking into account the impact on their lives," said County Commission Chairman Ted Schrader. "That's outstanding news for Pasco County, and the citizens of the (State Road) 54 corridor are to be applauded and congratulated."
County Commissioner Ann Hildebrand said she already had a gut sense Progress would decide this way.
"In my conversations with (Progress officials), they were saying things looked pretty good for Pasco," she said. "They hinted the north-south routes won't go through Pasco."
Lyash said that while Progress won't be expanding lines through Pasco this time, it may have to come back in the future as the county grows.
He pointed out Pasco's energy use has gone up 33 percent in the past seven years.
"I would expect that, over the years, there will be other transmission projects," he said. "But there won't be any (new lines in Pasco) needed in this project."
Krauer said he hoped the county and Progress would continue to work together to carve a future corridor, perhaps in northern Pasco and away from crowded subdivisions, for future utility right-of-way needs.
Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4613.