Installation of Lox Groves underground power line raises old question of poles near roads

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The Loxahatchee Groves City Council received an update on the installation of underground power lines from representatives of Florida Power & Light on February 15, but the discussion raised the longstanding specter of utility poles being installed too close. roads due to narrow easements in some of the locations.

Ray Lozano, FPL storm safety program manager, said the underground lines were part of a storm resilience plan approved by the state legislature in 2019 to control the power grid in extreme weather.

“As part of this storm protection plan, we commit through the Public Service Commission each year to complete a number of diversions. [underground power lines]”, said Lozano. “This year, we are ready to plan 602 underground diversions. These are neighborhood power lines, not main supply lines.

He said the schedule allowed more than 300 miles of overhead wire to be removed and placed underground. Approximately 80 miles and 142 laterals are planned for Palm Beach County.

“About 80 percent of our branch line mileage in Palm Beach County is in Loxahatchee,” he said. “The majority of our work in Palm Beach County will be in Loxahatchee.”

He said the work will speed up restoration efforts after a storm.

“Transformers won’t be in people’s backyards anymore,” he said. “The padlocked transformers will be in the easement or right-of-way where you can access them and restore power much more quickly in the event of an outage.”

Lozano said power line replacements are established by the Public Safety Commission, based on past power outages due to major storms, as well as outages attributed to overgrowth and day-to-day operations.

“Loxahatchee is at the top of our list in Palm Beach County,” he said, adding that FPL had begun initial construction on the project.

Leslie Cleaver, FPL project manager for Palm Beach County, said Loxahatchee Groves represents 64.4 miles of the overall project in Palm Beach County.

“It’s been a lot of miles that we’ve traveled from the air to the basement,” Cleaver said. “That represents around 1,200 customers. We have divided your region into 16 different projects, 14 of which we will carry out this year.

Some projects still require municipal permits. FPL External Affairs Officer Stephanie Mitrione explained that company representatives had recently met with city staff to discuss the project, and the topic was raised of moving back some of the service lines close to roads, especially on Route C and other routes.

“We are currently on the outer edge of the right-of-way so there are some issues that need to be resolved for us to be able to move these poles, but these are projects that we are happy to continue conversations about if that is anything. thing you want. explore, but we would like to keep it separate from this underground project,” Mitrione said.

Councilor Phillis Maniglia said she was concerned transformers to be installed on the ground would interfere with riding on horse trails, and Cleaver said all transformers would be installed on private property.

City Manager Jamie Titcomb said FPL had obtained permission from the private owners to obtain the 10ft by 10ft easements to install transformers.

Councilor Marianne Miles was concerned that the project would focus on lines going to homes, but not on major power lines running north to south.

Mitrione said the power lines were hardened to withstand the wind in 2019.

“These north-south feeders should be in much better shape than they were before,” she said.

Cleaver said that in 2019 the power line poles were installed as part of the company’s aerial curing program.

“This overhead hardening program is pretty much the same as the underground side hardening program,” he said. “It’s designed to make that power line resilient so it can withstand hurricane-force winds.”

Several members of council expressed concern about the presence of old utility poles that remained standing in town easements that still contained telephone lines that had not yet been moved. Many old poles are located close to the road, which poses a traffic hazard. FPL officials said they are in regular contact with telephone companies, but the FPL does not have the power to move these lines themselves.

Some council members also raised concerns about the new poles which had been placed near the road, and FPL officials said some of the easements were not wide enough to locate the pole further from the road. unless they get more bondage.

Mitrione said FPL obtained the easements for the individual transformers, but the poles are placed at the edge of the easement as far from the road as possible.

“We have nowhere to go with these supply lines,” she said. “We are on the edge of the grip. We do not have the right, in the present state of things, to push back this line any further. We’re not talking about little 10 x 10 squares. We need a continuous easement for this whole lane.

Mitrione added that moving a post is not enough because the line would not be straight, and FPL is not allowed to move the line further back.

“If you want to move these poles, we need an extended right-of-way or easement,” she said, adding that she felt the underground lines had nothing to do with moving the poles. electrical. “These poles exist. The only way to hit them is to install a riser on some poles. »

After further discussion, Danowski presented a motion provided by the city’s legal counsel stating that the city supported FPL’s current underground project, provided that the utility poles be moved out of the right-of-way within a reasonable time and directing the staff and the city attorney time to prepare a resolution for consideration at the next council meeting to provide written notice to FPL, in accordance with Florida statutes, regarding such a move. The motion passed unanimously.

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