Florida, Everglades National Park, the first ‘biological park’ in our nation’s history, is being threatened anew. And this time it’s not lack of water, agricultural runoff, sewage, excessive motorized recreation or Burmese pythons on the loose.
Anxious to double the size of its Turkey Point nuclear plant on the shores of Biscayne Bay with two new nuclear reactors, Florida Power and Light (FPL) is attempting to make use of an old utility corridor it still owns inside the borders of the recently acquired East Everglades Expansion Area of Everglades National Park. The plan being put on the table is for FPL to swap out this corridor for one on the park’s eastern edge. Three separate lines would cross approximately 7 miles of what is currently national park property on more than 300 towers. Two of the three lines would carry 500,000 volts along towers 150 feet tall, while the third would carry 230,000 volts along 90 foot towers.
Consequences for the park would be enormous. First of all, the towers would dominate the eastern horizon of the entire East Everglades Expansion Area – the heart of the Shark River Slough and the main source of water for Everglades National Park. They would be visible as far away as the popular Shark Valley Visitor Center and tram/bicycle path. But aside from creating a permanent industrialized viewscape for our beloved park, there are other consequences. Scientists are concerned about damage to vegetation and fragile wetland soils; hydrological changes due to the massive concrete pads that would have to be put in place in the floodplain to support the towers; the likely spread of invasive plant species due to both construction and maintenance activities; and effects (including collisions and electrocutions) on wading birds (already reduced by over 90 percent in south Florida since the 1930s) and migratory birds.