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Council approves overhead power lines along Southeast 47th Terrace

By Staff | Mar 10, 2009

Lee County Electrical Cooperative has been trying for 10 years to get a transmission line connecting a substation on Everest Parkway to one in downtown Cape Coral.
It moved one step closer to its goal Monday when Cape Coral City Council members voted to install overhead power lines along Southeast 47th Terrace, but not everyone is happy with the outcome.
Mayor Jim Burch said the move would be devastating to the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency.
“I also believe that you will effectively kill the CRA,” he said.
LCEC maintains that the line is needed to prevent a system overload that could affect other parts of the Cape. It also is needed to increase the reliability of service in the southeast Cape.
But members of the CRA say the 77-foot-tall transmission lines are unsightly, and prevent the kind of commercial development that is at the core of their mission to turn the downtown area into a thriving urban village.
CRA boardmembers have consistently called for underground transmission lines, and have worked with LCEC toward that end.
CRA boardmember Don Heisler signaled Monday’s vote was not the end of the fight to bury the lines.
“This is not the end of the road. It will be overhead unless we come up with a solution to put it underground,” he said.
Underground lines would cost about $6 million more than overhead lines, which LCEC has offered to install at no cost to the city.
CRA and LCEC officials have held talks for the past two years about the possibility of underground lines in the CRA, but LCEC was clearly looking for a decision on a route through downtown from council members.
A letter from LCEC account executive Trish Lassiter to the city last month indicated that it would not relocate a transmission line on Santa Barbara Boulevard as part of the road’s widening project until the line in the south Cape was resolved.
She poured water on the letter during Monday’s meeting, saying it only intended to show the two projects are connected.
“We extend our apologies if we gave the impression that we would not do it (move the Santa Barbara line). It’s not that we wouldn’t do it, it’s just that it wouldn’t be prudent,” Lassiter said, adding that the Santa Barbara line would need to be upgraded if the south Cape line was not resolved.
Councilmember Pete Brandt asked Lassiter why the CRA was not consulted before LCEC made a route recommendation, whereas before LCEC had been “route neutral.”
“We want to choose the least intrusive route, but we were coming to a critical point so we wanted to come and make a recommendation,” she said.
Brandt joined Burch in voting against the measure, which passed by a 6-2 margin.