Time to Bury Power Lines?

The Drive to Put FPL Power Lines Underground Gains Momentum

December 2019

It is not a new idea. As early as 1992, when Hurricane Andrew slammed South Florida, Coral Gables city officials began conversations with FPL about putting power lines underground. Resolutions were passed in 2005 and in 2017 – each time following hurricanes that caused massive power outages – questioning FPL’s reliability and suggesting underground “conversion.”

This year the momentum has picked up, with the city obtaining non-binding “ballpark” estimates of what it would cost to go underground from FPL, AT&T and Comcast. That estimate was presented to the City Commission last month: a whopping $250 to $275 million, or about $25,000 per FPL customer.

Vice Mayor Vince Lago, who has been spurring the city to focus on the issue, believes that estimate to be highly overblown. He and City Attorney Miriam Ramos both expect a more realistic number by the first quarter of 2020, when city engineers will “hone down on those numbers,” says Ramos. At the same time, a public campaign will gauge citizen interest.

“Those numbers will drop dramatically,” says Lago. “But I want residents to understand that while there will be significant benefits, there will be costs.” Ramos says that a three month “educational campaign” will begin in January, including “a listening tour for staff to hear what people’s concerns are.” Assuming there is enough public support, says Ramos, the goal is a referendum on the ballot in August, the same time as the presidential primaries. If approved, reasonable payment options will be offered to property owners.

The Benefits:

  • Increased property values
  • Power losses prevented
  • Safety for sick & elderly
  • An end to FPL tree hacking
  • Removal of ugly power lines