Live Oak —
Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC held open house meetings both in Live Oak and Branford last week to provide information and address any concerns residents have regarding a natural gas pipeline the company intends to build and install by 2017.
Florida Power & Light Company chose Sabal Trail to perform the roughly $3 billion project that will extend their gas pipeline 474 miles beginning in Alabama and will make its way through four Alabama counties, nine Georgia counties and 12 Florida counties, including Suwannee and surrounding Madison and Hamilton counties.
The pipeline will extend approximately 40 miles in Suwannee County and approximately 500 landowners will be affected by this project. About 100 landowners in Hamilton County will be affected.
According to Andrea Grover, spokesperson for Sabal Trail Transmission, the current proposed route could change, but it will stay within a 600 feet corridor. Grover said the pipeline will run along existing rights-of-way for about 80 percent of the route. When construction begins, the pipeline’s projection path will be narrowed down to a 50 feet corridor.
At the end of next year, Sabal Trail hopes to file an application for a certificate which will allow the company to begin construction on the gas line. According to Grover, the process of approval takes about a year. Should the process go smoothly, the company could begin construction as early as 2016. It’s the goal of the company to have the pipeline constructed and flowing by May 1, 2017.
Sabal Trail’s efforts to develop a new natural gas transportation system in the region is in response to an industry-wide request by Florida Power & Light Company to provide dedicated natural gas transportation services for their power generation needs starting in May 2017.
Sabal Trail is a wholly owned affiliate of Spectra Energy Corp, a leading transporter of clean-burning natural gas. Through their multiple interstate pipeline companies, they have been providing natural gas to local utility and electric generating facilities for almost 70 years.
At the onset of the project, Sabal Trail will have two above-ground facilities; one will be constructed in Tallapoosa County, Ala., at the start of the pipeline and one at the end in Osceola County in Florida. An additional five stations will be added after the in-service date.
For safety purposes, Grover said the pressure in the pipelines will be monitored around the clock and a fly over will be conducted regularly. Grover also said they will walk the line once a year.
Live Oak meeting, Dec. 3
The Live Oak meeting was held at the Suwannee County Coliseum on Dec. 3, and about 40 residents came to ask questions and voice their opinions. One couple, originally from Long Island, New York, came with concerns as the pipeline path would run about a mile from their Suwannee County home.
“I wondered why they picked that route and what approvals do they need to go through,” asked Steven Madsen.
Madsen’s wife Sheila had concerns about the safety of the line and didn’t know until that evening how close it would run near their home. She said letters were sent out to land owners directly impacted. They were also concerned about the noise from the pipeline’s installation process.
Another couple who own land and who are originally from France moved to the area specifically for the cave diving opportunities. They are now both diving instructors and their concerns about the pipeline were mainly from an ecological standpoint. Neither one knew whether their land would be directly affected by the line.
“It’s a karst area, all of Suwannee County with all the caverns, springs and caves. When you move something, you move the karst. A lot can happen at anytime,” said George Gawinowski. “There is a lot of rain and sinkholes. It’s a natural process of the environment. If you start digging and doing unnatural things, there are consequences.”
Karst is a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks including limestone, dolomite and gypsum. It is characterized by sinkholes, caves, and underground drainage systems.
His wife Lucie had safety concerns about gas leaks and said there would be no way for them to know.
Cindy Marshall said the pipeline should stay out of residential areas.
“This won’t affect my land, but where I have an interest in the land,” said Marshall. “I don’t feel they need to be going through residential areas. There are more ways for them to go about this plus they’re going to disturb the waterways.”
Marshall said she has heard horror stories of the things Sabal Trail would use to clean out the lines that could contaminate local waters. She said she wasn’t interested in where it was going as long as it wasn’t going to be in Suwannee County.
President of Our Santa Fe River, Inc. Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson said she works in many different ways to protect the river, springs and other tributaries.
“I am concerned about any sort of transgression through our water bodies specifically when you’re talking about putting a pipeline of 36 inches in a karstic environment,” said Malwitz-Jipson. “Those are my primary concerns because it might impact the Floridan Aquifer or it might impact our spring shed and specifically where they’re planning to put this.”
She pointed to one of the many aerial photos Sabal Trail had displayed and then in a specific area of it. Her concern was for anything like the pipeline coming into spring shed areas and named several local springs she thought would be affected.
“Just because it’s not transecting the Ichetucknee, it’s still running in its spring shed,” said Malwitz-Jipson, pointing. “Right here, all of this area is still a spring shed for these basins.”
Branford meeting, Dec. 4
In Branford, opinions and concerns were much the same.
Laura Dailey said she was there to convince people to keep pressure on Spectra Energy Corp to make sure the pipeline goes in a place that’s agreeable to everyone and doesn’t destroy the environment. Dailey suggested perhaps more thought could be put into alternative forms of energy.
“We’re wasting a lot of money on a geologically fragile area that is an ecosystem unlike none other in the world and moving one pipeline one mile away from one spot doesn’t make it any better,” said Dailey. “And I’d like to see FPL get a little more smart about it, too.”
Karen Mullins wants to make sure the pipeline stays away from the Ichetucknee and Santa Fe rivers.
“It scares me all the accidents we’ve been hearing about, about pipeline explosions here and there. They’re not doing their work, they’re not keeping it safe,” said Mullins.
Darryl Marshall said he’s worried about the wildlife in addition to human impact.
“You can’t re-locate birds, you can’t re-locate pileated woodpeckers, you can’t re-locate bald eagles,” said Darryl Marshall. “We have beavers right in the path of where they say they’re going and we have the brown river otters and they’re all protected.”
Although it seemed most folks at both meetings were opposed to the proposed pipeline, there were some who were indifferent or not overly concerned.
“I don’t have a problem with it, not at all,” said Robert Proffitt.
He said originally the line was supposed to go through his property, but it's unclear at the present. He said even if it did, it wouldn't bother him in the least.
“I went online and researched it, I don’t see a problem with it,” said Proffitt.
Wendall Lemnah said he didn’t have a problem with the pipeline as long as he was being told the truth. He said the pipeline would come through about two acres of his, but he will still be able to use his property. Lemnah said a pre-existing power line is on his property and he’s had no issue with it.
“I’m good with it, if they aren't lying,” said Lemnah. “No use in fussing about it. If they want to do it, they’re going to do it.”
Also on hand were two attorneys, Steven C. Bullock of Lake City’s firm, Brannon, Brown, Haley and Bullock, P.A. and Kent L. Hipp of Orlando’s firm, Gray-Robinson. Their firms collaborate on cases and Hipp is an eminent domain and property rights attorney. They were there to represent affected property owners of Suwannee and surrounding counties to inform them of their rights.
Hipp said there was no way around it, that the pipeline would be put in, but the property owners don’t have all the information.
“The thing they really need to know more than anything else is the pipeline company has to pay for them to have their own lawyer and their own appraiser,” said Hipp. “A lot of folks say, ‘I have to go get a lawyer’ and give up and take whatever.”
He said this was a huge piece of information that by law, Sabal Trail must tell property owners. Hipp said the pipeline companies are holding back to see how many they can get to go along and comply.
“Get someone to represent you. It doesn’t cost you anything and we’ve been doing pipeline stuff for 24 years on behalf of the owners,” said Hipp.
Bullock said that property owners need to understand that once the pipeline is buried on their property, it must be disclosed in the event they want to sell the parcel.
“It could affect the value and property owners need to know that. They need to be protected,” said Bullock.