Residents of eastern Hillsborough County will get their chance to comment on a proposal to place high-voltage power lines in an area that could skirt houses and a walking trail in FishHawk Ranch.
TECO plans to build the line through a corridor between Polk County and FishHawk Ranch to deliver more power to homes in eastern Hillsborough.
The corridor plan has already gone before the Florida Public Service Commission, which determined there is a need for it. The next step is an administrative hearing in June to address any environmental concerns.
Members of the public can speak at the hearing, which the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is holding. The final decision on whether to allow the new power line corridor lies with the governor and cabinet, sitting as the Power Plant Siting Board.
The electric lines, strung on 120-foot tall power poles, will travel through FishHawk Ranch on an existing TECO right of way that skirts houses, a pond and walking trail along the eastern edge of the community. Residents and officials with FishHawk developer Newland Homes pushed to get the corridor moved further from homes, to no avail.
“We did solicit feedback from our customers and included that in our evaluation of where to build those lines,” TECO Spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said. “We did extensive screening of tens of thousands of possible routes. The route we selected was the least impactful. That means minimizing the impact on the environment, the number of homes within 500 feet and the amount of property we would need to purchase (condemning houses).”
TECO is moving forward with the 27-mile corridor because it has several power-purchase agreements expiring and the company has determined that expanding the Polk power plant is the most cost-effective way to make up that loss, Jacobs said.
She said that the expansion would increase output at the Polk power plant by 460 megawatts, or enough electricity to power 100,000 homes. The new lines will then carry that electricity to TECO customers in Hillsborough County.
Construction of the high-voltage lines is expected to begin in 2014 and finish in 2016.
The hearing to address environmental concerns begins at 9 a.m. June 24 at the Bartow Civic Center, 2250 S. Flora Ave. It will continue through Friday, June 28, if necessary.
For those who cannot attend the hearing, written comments can be mailed to Administrative Law Judge Bram D.E. Canter at the Division of Administrative Hearings, DeSoto Building, 1230 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060.
Also, the application for certification is available for public inspection locally at Tampa Electric, 702 N. Franklin Street, Tampa.