Apalachicola Files Suit Against Power Energy Over Power Poles

By: Eyewitness News; Mike Springer Email
By: Eyewitness News; Mike Springer Email

Update Dec. 1, 2011----
As we first reported last night, a group of Apalachicola business owners are fighting to stop the Progress Energy from putting up new transmission poles in their city. Eyewitness news reporter Mike Springer spoke to business owners about their concerns.

"It's simply an outrage," says Bickel

That outrage, Richard Bickel says, stems from thirty-three eighty foot high transmission poles that Progress Energy is putting up in Apalachicola. The new poles will replace 37, 65-foot high ones as part of a system upgrade. But some business owners worry as the poles go up, the tourists will go away.

"The lawsuit essentially asks that all work be stopped," says Tom Daly.

Progress Energy says it would costs the city $14.1 million dollars to bury the poles versus $1.3 million if they remained above ground. It's a cost Daly says the city can't afford.

"It's totally inconceivable that the community could support that kind of investment," says Daly.

The upgrades will stretch thirty-eight miles from Port Saint Joe to Saint George Island. But it's the roughly one and a half miles running along Apalachicola's shore that worries Bickel.

"I'm quiet concerned about our waterfront. It's a national treasure," says Bickel.

Lindsley says the company has five days to respond to the injunction and show cause for the construction of the poles.

Progress Energy has declined to comment on the injunction, saying they have yet to be served at this time. Tomorrow a protest is scheduled for noon in Apalachicola

NOTE: Copy of Injunction attached above.

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Apalachicola Files Suit Against Power Energy Over Power Poles

Apalachicola, FL – November 30, 2011 --

Residents and business owners of this small Gulf Coast town filed suit in state court today against utility giant Progress Energy seeking an emergency injunction against the construction of massive power poles in the historic downtown district.

Members of the Apalachicola Area Historical Society as well as several businesspeople and city residents sued Progress Energy after the corporation refused to discuss alternatives such as burying the utility lines or finding another route. On Nov. 16, the Apalachicola City Commission asked Progress Energy for a 90-day halt in construction so other solutions could be found, but the company has refused to stop work.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Apalachicola asks the Franklin County Circuit Court to issue a temporary injunction preventing Progress Energy from installing any additional poles for 90 days. The lawsuit says Progress Energy’s plans conflict with federal, state and local rules governing the protection of historical areas. The National Park Service has placed Apalachicola on the National Register of Historic Sites and Places, and the state of Florida has designated the town an “area of critical state concern.”

The lawsuit cites a March 10, 2011, letter that Florida’s Division of Historical Resources sent to Progress Energy and other officials. The state said the company’s plans appear to be inconsistent with the Coastal Zone Management Act, which serves to protect the historic resources of Florida, as well as other applicable federal laws.

“It is the opinion of this agency that the transmission line rebuild within the current existing easement will have a significant adverse effect on the Apalachicola Historic District and some of the other historic properties in Apalachicola,” wrote Laura A. Kammerer, a state historic preservationist. “Apalachicola was one of Florida’s most important Gulf coast ports, and the Apalachicola Historic District is very significant because it encompasses most of the 1836 town plan and a remarkable concentration of 19th and early 20th century residential and commercial buildings.”

Located 75 miles southwest of Tallahassee, the popular tourist town is famous for its world-class oysters. Apalachicola Bay produces 90 percent of Florida’s oysters and 10 percent of the nation’s supply. But long before oysters put the town on the map, Apalachicola was the capital of another important industry: cotton.

In the 1820s and 1830s, Apalachicola was the third-largest cotton port on the Gulf Coast, behind New Orleans and Mobile. Later, the town would play important roles in the lumber trade as well as the harvesting of sponges off the Florida coast.

Today, tourists flock to the downtown district to soak up this rich history and to savor its aesthetic charm and beauty. Apalachicola residents and business owners say the placement of Progress Energy’s industrial power poles will ruin that.

Protests against the utility giant’s plans have escalated in recent weeks. Members of the historical society created a website, www.saveapalach.com, encouraging viewers to contact Bill Johnson, chairman and chief executive of Progress Energy, and Vincent Dolan, chief executive of Progress Energy in Florida, to request that the power lines in the city be run underground.

On Nov. 19, more than 100 citizens and local officials walked through downtown in a mock funeral procession behind a horse-drawn caisson holding a flag-draped coffin. Citizens here say the monster transmission towers, which weigh 30,000 pounds and loom nearly 100 feet in the air, will kill the charm and character of the historic town that boasts about 900 landmark buildings and homes.

The mammoth poles in Apalachicola are not for the electrical usage of this small community of 2,400. Instead, the transmission lines are carrying 115 kilovolts (kV) of electricity to connect Progress’ power grid throughout Florida.

The utility giant also is under scrutiny elsewhere in the state. Progress Energy was forced to idle its nuclear-power plant in Crystal River, Fla., due to its botched repairs. The company now wants its 1.6 million Florida customers to help pay part of the $2.5 billion cost to fix its mistakes there.

Progress Energy, based in Raleigh, N.C., is pushing to finalize by year-end its merger with Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy, a deal valued at $26 billion. The deal would create the largest utility in the United States.

Tim Leljedal with Progress Energy gave WCTV this statement, “Our company has worked to try to address local residents’ concerns throughout this process and this is work that we need to perform to continue to deliver reliable power to the area.”

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Apalachicola to Progress Energy: Bury The Lines, Not Our Town

[UPDATE] 11-16 APALACHICOLA, Fla. –

Save Apalach Release

A David-vs.-Goliath battle is unfolding in a small artsy fishing village in Florida’s Panhandle, where residents and business owners say if they lose, it will mean the death of quaint and historic Apalachicola’s downtown district.

To call attention to its struggle against Progress Energy and the power company’s plan to install 100-foot power poles through the downtown area, Apalachicola will stage a mock funeral for itself on Saturday, November 19th – in what is considered an eerie look into the town’s immediate future. Located 75 miles southwest of Tallahassee on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the popular tourist town, known for oysters, fishing and the arts, is fighting an 11th-hour battle against Progress Energy, whose power pole installation plan through the tree-lined city is now approaching the heart of downtown.

Local residents and businesses continue to issue pleas to the utility giant to simply pause in order to give the town time to raise money to run the lines underground.

Citizens here are so certain that Progress Energy’s mammoth poles will kill the character of their beloved city that the Saturday funeral will be complete with a horse-drawn caisson, a flag-draped coffin and a processional line. Those planning the event say the town’s historical nature and charm will be forever eclipsed by the fatal scars that Progress Energy is inflicting.

Supporters say Apalachicola’s downtown is worth saving because of its unique history.

The town is famous for its world-class oysters. Apalachicola Bay produces 90 percent of Florida’s oysters and 10 percent of the nation’s supply. But long before oysters put the town on the map, Apalachicola was the capital of another important industry: cotton.

In the 1820s and 1830s, Apalachicola was the third-largest cotton port on the Gulf Coast, behind New Orleans and Mobile. Later, the town would play important roles in the lumber trade as well as the harvesting of sponges off the Florida coast.

Today, tourists flock to the downtown district to soak up this rich history and to savor the absence of big-box stores, strip malls and fast-food chains that make most U.S. cities so indistinguishable from each other. Residents and business owners say the placement of Progress Energy’s giant power poles will ruin that.

The power company, based in Raleigh, N.C., is pushing to finalize its merger with Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy, a deal valued at $26 billion. The companies need approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and officials are doubtful that the end-of-year timeline for the merger will be met. The deal would create the largest utility in the United States.

Residents in Apalachicola, which is serviced by Progress Energy, are appalled at the company’s hubris regarding the towers, saying many other historic areas – including nearby Port St. Joe, Fla., and Beaufort, S.C. – already have power lines buried underground or are in the process of doing so.

“Progress Energy may have the right to do this, but it’s not the right thing to do,” said Robert Lindsley, who owns and operates an art gallery near the planned location of one of the towers.

The Apalachicola Area Historical Society has been battling Progress Energy over its scheduled placement of the 30,000-pound concrete poles through the downtown waterfront for more than a year.

The historical society has retained the services of a prominent Florida attorney to help in the fight. A decade ago, Arthur “Buddy” Jacobs successfully battled Wal-Mart and kept the corporate giant from building a Supercenter in Fernandina Beach, Fla. Residents and officials of the tiny coastal town near Jacksonville expressed the same fears that those in Apalachicola have today: Drastic transformation will bring about the deaths of small businesses and the character of the community.

Tom Daly, president of Apalachicola’s historical society, said citizens’ concerns weren’t being heard, so the nonprofit group ramped up the message. The group has created a website, run newspaper and radio advertising, and flown two aerial banners at well-attended events – all in the span of about 10 days. Visitors to the website www.saveapalach.com are encouraged to contact Bill Johnson, chairman and chief executive of Progress Energy, and Vincent Dolan, chief executive of Progress Energy in Florida, to request that the power lines in the city be run underground.

“This is about pride in our community,” Daly said, noting that Apalachicola’s existence predates the state of Florida. “We are a unique location, and we have an international reputation with visitors. These industrial poles do not have a place in our community.”

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November 10, 2011 -

Letter from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation

Apalachicola needs your help to stop Progress Energy from cutting 100-year-old live oak trees, removing wooden power poles, and installing 90' tall by 5' diameter concrete transmission poles routed along the historic waterfront and directly through the 150-year-old riverfront downtown and historic district. Apalachicola depends on the heritage tourism and seafood industry for its economic life. These power lines will blight the most valuable real estate, the historic riverfront.

Apalachicola, a National Trust for Historic Preservation Destination of Distinction, has, for two centuries, been a vital link to the Gulf of Mexico as a center of commerce during both the Cotton and Timber boom periods. It is considered by many as the Capital of the Florida Seafood Industry and home to world famous Apalachicola Oysters. The city was a tactically critical port during the Civil War and the center of training activities for the amphibious landing exercises leading up to D-day invasion during WW II.

Progress Energy Corporation plans to "upgrade" electric utilities and enhance power transmission lines in the panhandle of Florida, a service enhancement for existing customers that will enable them to increase up-line service delivery to potential new customers in west Florida and lower Alabama.

Requests from the Division of Historical Resources and the City of Apalachicola to re-route or bury the power lines have been refused and the position that such re-engineering would only be done so at the cost to the City.

Renowned preservation advocate and attorney Arthur 'Buddy' Jacobs of Fernandina Beach (who successfully defeated Wal-Mart's proposed construction in that city) and preservation architect and city planning consultant Mark A. Tarmey, A.I.A.|NCARB, a Past-President of the Florida Trust, are representing the AAHS in this effort on a pro-bono basis.

You can find the original story below
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Apalachicola, FL ---

Several people met in downtown Apalachicola Tuesday upset about Progress Energy's plan to upgrade the city's transmission lines.
Workers are already working to plant several huge poles in the middle of the historic district.

"It's unfortunately going to be right in front of many of the city's historic buildings," says Anita Grove, executive director of the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce.

"We certainly need power, but we don't need power that's being transmitted on a 90 foot concrete pole. It's a little bit of an overkill," says Richard Bickel.

Bickel has lived in his Apalachicola home for about 20 years and at least five trees in his yard have been cut down to place new poles alongside his yard.

Tourists like Steve Holt look forward to seeing the historic trees when they come to town.

"It's a shame seeing them being destroyed like they are along this street, so Apalachicola has beautiful trees and they should be preserved," says Holt.

The new poles are about a 100 feet high and weigh more than 30,000 pounds making them much larger than the standard pole. Progress Energy says it's removing the current poles in town and replacing them with the new poles. The company says the new poles are equipped for severe weather.

A Progress Energy spokesperson says, "We respect the historical nature of the town, but our main goal is to make sure all customers have reliable electricity."

State officials have written several letters to agencies urging them to redesign the pole system or bury the transmission line.

We have placed several calls to Mayor Van Johnson to get the city's view on the power poles, but he has not yet returned our phone calls.

Progress Energy started building poles in Apalachicola in September. A spokesperson says the total cost of the project is about six million dollars.


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