A proposal to string a ribbon of high-voltage power lines along the edge of Everglades National Park is being met with strong opposition from a number of groups that want the Interior Department and Park Service to reject the request and acquire the land the lines would traverse.
The proposal from Florida Power and Light is to locate 70, 150-foot-tall, high-power transmission lines along the park's boundary to reach two proposed nuclear power reactors next to two existing units at the Turkey Point nuclear facility on the edge of nearby Biscayne National Park.
While the preferred route would take the corridor along the Everglades boundary, one option would be to run it through an inholding owned by the utility that is surrounded by the park. The 2009 Omnibus Public Lands Bill gave the Park Service permission to pursue acquisition of this 7-mile-long tract.
The agency is in the midst of taking public comment, through July 25, on a proposal to acquire the land through an exchange with the utility or some other means (ie., outright purchase or through eminent domain).
Documents prepared for the environmental impact statement examining the project and whether the Park Service should acquire the land have said the towers could present risks to birds in the area. Although a report (attached) on the possible impacts to birds called for more study, it also said that the preferred location "would result in the loss of more than 100 acres of habitat used by more than 200 avian species, including loss of breeding habitat used by more than 50 avian species."
"This loss of habitat," the report continued, "would affect a diverse and abundant assemblage of avian species nesting, foraging, and migrating through habitats located within Everglades National Park."
Bird species that rely on wetlands, such as wading birds, raptors, and passerines, "are likely to be impacted by the proposed power lines. However, not all bird groups and species are at the same degree of risk of injury...," the report added. "A more comprehensive risk assessment for avifauna in and around Everglades National Park will need to evaluate the entire length of the proposed Florida Power and Light Co. transmission corridor in Miami-Dade County."
The plan is being opposed by the Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Clean Water Action, the Izaak Walton League, and Tropical Audubon Society. The South Florida Wildlands Association has announced its intention to sue to halt the project. NPCA also has presented the agencies with thousands of comments against the powerline plan.
"The use is completely incompatible with the designated purpose of the Everglades, and it is therefore necessary that FPL find an alternative route," NPCA has said in opposing the transmission line corridor. "Taxpayers are the rightful owners of America's national parks. Conveying a track of Everglades National Park to a for-profit utility for a transmission lines corridor poses a threat to the Everglades ecosystem and conflicts with long-term restoration efforts. "