City Council candidate question of the week: Undergrounding of power lines
Each week through the primary, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response. This week’s question of the week: A two-part question: Should future electric lines be installed underground? Should the city be retrofitted for underground electric lines?
JOHN CARIOSCIA – Incumbent
The installation of electrical lines underground would serve at least two purposes.
It would be esthetically pleasing to the neighborhoods and it would definitely minimize power loss when hurricanes or even violent storms would hit an area.
However, be mindful, that on average, and of course depending on the specifics of the installation, I have been told that to install electrical service underground it would cost approximately three times that, for the cost of providing a service installation above ground.
Think about it, $1 million projects would now become $3 million projects, $5 million projects skyrocket to $15 million d and most municipalities are currently working with very tight budgets, as we are and at those costs, no one believes that any electrical provider would absorb the cost of providing underground electrical service.
Of course all future utilities should be located underground. Usually they are located in the easement behind homes, which makes for a much more aesthetically pleasing neighborhood. A street lined with telephone poles with wires is not a very pretty picture. However, more important than aesthetics, is safety. We are not immune to tropical storms and hurricanes. The damage caused can run into the millions of dollars. If utilities were buried underground, they would be immune to the massive destruction the storms cause and we would be able to restore service much faster. The basic infrastructure would remain intact, saving millions of dollars. There is also as an everyday safety issue. If a highly charged line were to fall in a neighborhood, children would be at great risk, not only with the possibility of touching it but a wet lawn or puddle would also be just as dangerous.
Also to be considered are new home buyers. As they contemplate relocating, it might be a big consideration if utilities were located underground. Possibly even having fiber to the curb available would be a plus.
Yes, I am in favor of future electric lines to be installed underground. I have lived in Cape Coral since Hurricane Andrew. It is a safety issue. Most cities have gone to this system years ago. It saves on maintenance. I feel it is a better quality of life for the residents of Cape Coral
On the retrofit question, yes I support this. Wooden poles will rot, we will save on tree trimming around these poles, the city will also save on liability insurance, with all the storms and lighting we have here in Southwest Florida. It makes common sense.
Underground utilities certainly make an area look more attractive, but I understand that our rains cause undergrounding to be impractical, and that to find a repair when necessary a nightmare. Add in the additional cost and I can see a problem for a city that is as large as we are.
However, having said this, times and procedures change. Past information is not always correct. I would want to see a current study on the practicality and cost before making a final decision. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel since there are other Florida cities who do have electric lines that are underground.
TIMOTHY W. BARRIER
Installing electric lines underground is a good idea but comes at a price. While underground utilities are aesthetically pleasing they have inherently higher operating and maintenance costs and cost up to 10 times what it costs to install overhead lines.
They are however less vulnerable to airborne elements like wind and debris and in downtown areas they are more practical than overhead lines. Failures are extremely difficult to locate and repair and undergrounding distribution lines would require significant rate increases for Cape Coral consumers. Outages can still occur from trees collapsing on above-ground transformers and switch boxes or from tree-root systems uprooting buried cable when trees fall. I would prefer a study along with a recommendation from the Florida Public Service Commission before proceeding with a project of this magnitude.
In densely populated areas (the south Cape Coral CRA district, for example), future electric transmission and distribution lines should be installed underground. This is important not only for aesthetics, but it would also allow for smarter, safer, and more lucrative development; residents and businesses would also see an increase in property values.
Undergrounding is something to carefully consider in less populated areas. I’d want to be cognizant of any future plans for undergrounding while we’re tearing up the streets in north Cape Coral for the Utilities Extension Project. If at all feasible, that would be the perfect time to put transmission lines underground.