FPL's Nuclear Expansion Plan Could Ruin the Underline

Biking along a tranquil, green path in South Miami sounds pretty enjoyable. Next to a series of massive, ten-story nuclear power transmission lines? Not so much.

That’s a real possibility facing the Underline, a project to transform the underutilized land below Miami’s Metrorail from the Miami River to the Dadeland South Station into a ten-mile urban trail and green space. A design is in the works, and construction is set to begin next year.

But part of the area dedicated to the Underline is also the possible home of new transmission lines for two nuclear reactors being proposed for Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station by Florida Power & Light. The new reactors would require the construction of massive poles to transmit energy to consumers. And they'd be located on South Dixie Highway from Pinecrest to downtown Miami, within the 125 acres of new green space where the Underline is supposed to run.

“There’s a definite tension between these transmission lines and a beautiful experience on a bike path,” says Meg Daly, the founder of Friends of the Underline. “Can it be worked out? We’ll have to see.”

FPL argues that the nuclear plant expansion is necessary to meet growing demand for energy in South Florida. The new reactors would generate enough electricity to power 750,000 homes.

As design gets underway for the Underline, Daly met with the utility company Wednesday to seek information on where the poles might be placed. But at this stage, FPL is unable to share details. According to projections, the first new reactor would be able to transmit energy by mid-2022, though construction would begin well before then.

Since Daly hatched the idea for the vertical park in 2012, the Underline project has advanced rapidly, receiving funding from the cities of Miami, Coral Gables, and South Miami; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; and other groups. In March, Friends of the Underline tapped the codesigner of Manhattan’s popular High Line, James Corner Field Operations, to design the Underline master plan. This week, a series of public meetings are being held to collect public feedback about the design of the space.

“There is so much need in our community for spaces for biking and walking,” Daly says. “Bikes, cars, and pedestrians need to coexist. That is part of a future vision of a walkable, bikeable city.”

Lawmakers, scientists, environmentalists, and citizens have expressed a number of other concerns about expanding nuclear power along Biscayne Bay, including the future impact of sea-level rise, the project’s high costs, and the amount of water used by nuclear power. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado joined other local leaders this week to blast the project

But the plan has already passed through local and state levels, and FPL is pursuing a federal license.

For that reason, Daly says Friends of the Underline is working against the clock. She wants to break ground on construction as soon as possible. If the reactor is approved, she hopes FPL would “work around” what’s already been built.

“The Underline will really bring not just improved quality of life and health, but it also really does great things for property values along the corridor,” Daly says. “Once you put the poles in it, you’ve taken five steps forward and five back.” 
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jessica Weiss