Transmission Lines in Everglades National Park? No Thanks!

A rendering of how the power lines would have looked in Everglades National Park.

A rendering of how the power lines would have looked in Everglades National Park. National Park Service photo.

Imagine Everglades National Park, and what comes to mind? For many people—even those who have never set foot in the park—the mere mention of its name is synonymous with breathtaking, unspoiled waters. The park is part of one of the largest wetlands in the world, supporting a complex series of ecosystems, including cypress swamps, mangrove and hardwood forests, and Florida Bay.

Now imagine a utility company building power lines through these famous and spectacular wetlands, and it’s easy to understand why advocates have been up in arms for years, attempting to prevent such a plan from becoming a reality.

Fortunately, after more than six years and nearly 13,000 comments from NPCA members and supporters, Florida Power and Light (FPL) has finally agreed to keep an intrusive power line out of Everglades National Park. The original plans would have sited 330-foot transmission towers within park boundaries, slicing through pristine wetlands and affecting water flow, vegetation, the visitor experience, and native wildlife, including the endangered wood stork and snail kite.

The long fight to find a solution finally paid off earlier this month with a compromise that will protect one of our greatest national treasures and also address the proposed energy needs of South Florida. In a surprise announcement on May 13, the utility company finally agreed to site the power line outside park boundaries.

How was FPL even able to propose a power line in one of America’s most beloved national parks? FPL currently owns 320 acres of land that became part of Everglades National Park through a 1989 law that expanded the park boundary. Years ago, when FPL expressed interest in developing the land, it began discussing a compromise with the National Park Service to swap FPL’s land for acreage in the eastern portion of the park. Over the past six years, NPCA worked with FPL, mining companies, and county, state, tribal, and federal agencies, including the National Park Service, to develop an alternative corridor.

Recently, Florida Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet, along with the Florida Siting Board, approved the lower-impact alternative that would keep the FPL transmission lines completely out of the Everglades National Park. The state’s approval of the less impactful plan legally mandates FPL’s transmission lines to move forward outside of the park’s boundaries, subject to landowner approvals. The National Park Service will take the next step to resolve the separate issues of the land swap.

Our members and supporters were a critical part of this victory to protect America’s Everglades. Together we will make sure the final National Park Service plans support keeping power lines out of the park so the more than 1,000,000 annual visitors who spend nearly $103 million in and around Everglades National Park can continue to experience and enjoy this treasured place as visitors do today.

About the Author

Alison Zemanski Heis is senior media relations manager for NPCA