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Proposed Progress Energy power line routes worry residents

BROOKSVILLE — Outside his home at the corner of Sunshine Grove and Crowell roads, Steve Detrick sat in an old golf cart Tuesday afternoon to shade himself from the afternoon sun.

Potted plants, some under their own canopies at the Leverette Nursery, surrounded the 59-year-old. Silver electrical transmission lines peeked above the horizon in the distance.

"I like it here, we've got a good following," Detrick said of the business he and his wife, Debbie, operate. "I understand that we need more power. And I guess it's going to hit some of us. But I'm not going to be happy about it."

On Monday, Progress Energy revealed its proposed route for 200 miles of new transmission lines it intends to erect in the coming years. At a cost of $3-billion, the transmission corridor will carry high-voltage lines from its complex in Crystal River and a $14-billion planned nuclear complex in Levy County all the way to Polk County.

In Hernando, the corridor will follow existing routes that run parallel to the Suncoast Parkway, save for a small stretch northwest of Brookridge.

Maps indicate Detrick and his neighbors who live in the rectangular area north of State Road 50 and near the utility's Brookridge substation could be impacted by the construction of a new east-west corridor through the neighborhood.

Borders roughly consist of Sweet Gum Road to the south, Hexam Road to the north, Sunshine Grove Road to the east and Blanks Street to the west. From the western border, maps show that lines will connect with those running north-south.

Utility spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said the goal in Hernando is not to widen existing right of ways. But the company won't know of its final plans — including whether it decides to plow through the network of homes on lime rock roads where Detrick lives — until more studies are done.

In the past, the company has said new lines would require a strip up to 250 feet to build. When it comes to existing lines, the amount of land needed for such a project is unclear. In those cases, the company has said that sometimes additional rights of way are needed, and sometimes they are not.

This has residents who live on the backside of the Brookridge golf community nervous. The newer Spring Ridge subdivision is also next to where lines are located on Sunshine Grove Road.

"The idea of them coming through and purchasing (our homes) is fine, but will they give me fair market value?" asked Mary Malden, a 62-year-old Brookridge resident. "And what about all the people on fixed incomes who live here? They're in their 80s; where are they going to go?"

Jacobs said the same 23,000 residents who received previous letters from the company can expect another notifying them if they live in a study area. Those will go out this week.

"We will also have another series of public meetings in the fall," Jacobs said. "And we will have specified route options by the end of the year."

Along with the route in Hernando, the project's 20 miles of new corridor will slice through parts of northwest Citrus County and along a swath near Wildwood in Sumter County.

There are as many as 13,500 impacted property owners living within 250 feet of the transmission corridor in the region. Negotiations for property and easements will start later this year, with project completion by 2016.

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com, or (352) 848-1432.

Proposed Progress Energy power line routes worry residents 05/20/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 22, 2008 1:47pm]
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