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Power Lines Placement Generate Powerful Arguments

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Florida Power & Light hopes to add two atomic generators to its Turkey Point nuclear power plant and needs two new power lines to carry the new juice.

One of the lines, with massive poles rising the equivalent of 10 1/2 stories tall, could snake westward, then north along Everglades National Park. The other would hook up along U.S. 1, South Dixie highway, in the Cutler Bay area and follow the landmark roadway north all the way into the City of Miami.

An administrative law judge has been hearing arguments for and against for the last six days - and all the towns along Dixie highway are against.

"To have industrial strength monstrosities - I refuse to call them transmission lines - inserted into what is a beautiful, very important corridor to South Dade, would be nothing but destructive," Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner told CBS4 News on Monday.

Opponents say the transmission lines would choke future growth out of their communities by blocking expansion of Dixie highway to accommodate added traffic.

Business owners along the corridor say the power lines would be ugly, keep customers away and hurt their property values.

Ed Williamson, owner of Williamson Cadillac, Buick and GMC has a gleaming, sprawling facility on the proposed power line route.

"There's a major study that shows that if polls like that go up on your right of way, the value of your property goes down about thirty percent," Williamson told CBS4 News on Monday.

Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, South Miami and Miami are all opposing the Dixie highway power pole route before the administrative law judge who will make recommendations to the state in October.

Coral Gables has also gone to court to block the lines. The Gables, "The City Beautiful," argues the above ground poles that would line U.S. 1 through their city, including the edge of the University of Miami campus, would violate a long-standing contract the city has had with FPL.

"Why can't FPL go underground?" asked Gables Commissioner Frank Casada. "It's safer for the community. It's better aesthetically, everyone wins in that regard."

FPL says underground utilities are much more expensive, and would be an unfair added cost to its customers around the rest of the state in order to placate the concerns of a few municipalities.

FPL's Project Manager, Steven Scroggs, told CBS4 News the cheaper nuclear-generated power the proposed lines will carry will save customers billions of dollars.

"The project actually provides pretty significant savings for our customers," Scroggs said, estimating that electric bills over the first forty years of the operation would drop by $75 billion, versus the cost of more expensive fossil fuels.

Scruggs also said the cleaner nuclear power would keep "hundreds of millions of tons" of carbon emissions from being belched into the atmosphere.

"Obviously, we have a great need for reliable electric power in the state and Miami-Dade County," Scroggs said. "It takes transmission and distribution lines to do that."

The state hearing officer, or arbitrator, will finish his work in a few months and - barring intervention by a court - Governor Rick Scott and the Florida cabinet will either throw the on switch or pull the plug on FPL's proposed transmission line routes sometime this winter.

So far the hearing officer has heard from FPL and its experts and representatives and experts from the cities and other organizations opposing the transmission lines.

The public gets its chance to be heard in a series of public hearings to be held this week and next.

Here is a list of the times and locations of the public hearings:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Keys Gate Golf and Country Club, Banquet Hall 2300 Palm Drive, Homestead, FL 33035

Thursday, July 18, 2013
6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Coral Gables Youth Center
405 University Drive
Coral Gables, Florida 33134

Tuesday, July 23, 2013
3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Miami Airport Convention Center, Room MACC 1
777 N.W. 72nd Avenue, Miami, Florida, 33126

Thursday, July 25, 2013
6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Miami Airport Convention Center, Room MACC 1
777 N.W. 72nd Avenue, Miami, Florida, 33126

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