A parade of high-voltage power lines may not be anyone’s idea of what Everglades National Park needs to enhance its vistas of wading birds, open skies and cypress domes.
But in return for a transmission line corridor along the edge of the park, Florida Power & Light Co. would give the park land it owns deeper inside the Everglades, which would allow the park to improve water flow through its parched wetlands. The proposed land swap will be the subject of a public hearing Wednesday at Florida International University’s main campus.
FPL would acquire 260 acres on a 6.5-mile corridor along the park’s eastern edge to erect towers and other infrastructure for three power lines. In return, the park would get 320 acres acquired by FPL more than 40 years ago before the land was engulfed by an expansion of the park’s boundaries.
Several environmental groups oppose the swap, saying a corridor of cement pads, access roads, guy wires, transmission towers and power lines would destroy wetlands, kill birds and create an unsightly addition to the park’s skyline.
“We would be disrupting a national park,” said Stephen Mahoney, conservation chair of the Sierra Club’s Miami chapter. “It’s building power lines in a wetland, which would be a very destructive process for the water flow.”
FPL says it needs the power lines to transmit electricity from the new reactors planned for its Turkey Point nuclear plant, which are currently undergoing state and federal review. The company says the land swap would allow the park to acquire environmentally significant property without being unfair to FPL or its customers.
“We anticipate that the need for electricity is going to increase in South Florida, and the need for these transmission lines, poles and wires is part of that,” said Bill Orlove, spokesman for FPL.
The park has not yet taken a position on the proposal. An environmental analysis by the park found the proposal would result in the destruction of 260 acres of wetlands, a “direct, long-term, major adverse impact.” This would be mitigated by the enhancement of wetlands elsewhere, and the transaction would result in a net gain of 60 acres under the park’s control.
“We’re concerned about power lines next to the park, no doubt about that,” said Park Superintendent Dan Kimball.
But he said they would be preferable on the edge of the park rather than through the land FPL owns in the park’s interior. And he said the land swap would further the plan to restore the flow of water south through the park.
The public hearing will be held Wednesday from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at FIU’s Stadium Club, between gates 2 and 3 of the FIU stadium, 11310 SW 17th Street, Miami.