Getting Charged Up

Some people in Leon County are getting charged up over a city plan to put in a new power transmission line. The city picked Mahan Drive out of several potential routes for the new line.

It's the kind of situation the city admits won't make everybody happy. No one really wants a major transmission line near their house. The city thinks Mahan Drive is the best option; not everybody agrees.

It's a tree-lined road into Tallahassee, but Mahan Drive may soon be getting some of these: major transmission lines.

"If you look at the way power lines are usually put along roadways, they're ugly as sin," says Leon County Commissioner Bob Rackleff.

County commissioner Bob Rackleff doesn't want the city to ugly up Mahan Drive. Former commissioner Ed Depuy is worried about the lines for health reasons.

"Here's my concern: I think there's enough studies that have been done no just in America but around the world that say there's a real concern about some of the health problems around power lines," says Ed DePuy.

But Tallahassee utility staffers say new lines will meet or do better than state requirements for electromagnetic fields. Explaining the chosen route, utilities director Kevin Wailes expected some fallout.

"We know we can't make everyone happy. But we're trying to make sure we balance environmental issues, land use issues, and the public's need as well as the practical construction issues for us was important," says Kevin Wailes.

The city will consider the route for the new line December 10, and county commissioners like Bob Rackleff want more of a voice in where and how the city builds that new transmission line.

Building the line underground isn't the best solution because it's about 10 times more expensive. Underground lines are harder to reach if there's a problem, and burying a major transmission line requires building enormous underground vaults, which could mean even more excavation and tree removal.