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Hoke Property Owners Could Pay Price for Progress

Hundreds of property owners in Hoke County could have power lines installed on their properties as Progress Energy plans for a multi-county transmission power line.

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RED SPRINGS, N.C. — Edgar Edens has big plans for his 3,000-acre cotton farm on Old Maxton Road in Southern Hoke County – including center pivot irrigation to improve his harvest.

But now, he fears it will be money wasted if Progress Energy builds a power line that goes through his property.

"It will ruin the whole project," said Edens, who's been working on the irrigation project for 40 years. He already has four power lines on his farm that he says Progress Energy built.

"They're aggravating," he said. "The construction ruins the land for 15 years."

The energy company plans to build a natural gas fuel power plant in Richmond County to help provide additional electricity for the 25,000 to 30,000 new homes and businesses moving into its service area each year, company spokesman Mike Hughes said.

That means hundreds of property owners, like Edens, could also have transmission lines cutting through their land, leaving a 100-foot-wide path to accommodate 90-foot-tall transmission structures that hold the 230-kiloVolt lines.

The line would run approximately 60 miles from Richmond County to Fort Bragg and have structures anywhere from every 500 to 900 feet apart depending on the type of structure to which the line is attached.

Last week, Progress Energy notified property owners in Southern Hoke County of three proposed routes, widening its possibilities from two introduced to residents last year. The latest run through more heavily populated areas.

Hughes said he realizes the plan is not well-received by property owners – who are worried about possible health hazards and how the transmission lines would affect their property value – but said the move is necessary to keep up with growth and to be able to provide electricity needs.

"Each of us has more electronics in our homes. We are using about 50 percent more electricity on average per household than we used 30 years ago," he said. "So, this is needed so 20 years from now the lights continue to go on."

Hughes said the company would be flexible to and work to accommodate property owners' wishes on how the property is used. Nine out of 10 times, he said, they would be able to grant the owners' requests.

Property owners would also maintain ownership of the land, and Progress Energy would pay them a one-time fee for the easement.

But Earl Hendrix, who grew up on his family farm and hopes to leave it to his grandchildren, said no amount of money would be worth the damage done.

The final route for the transmission line will be selected by March, with construction to begin next year. It's expected to be in service in mid-2011 when the power plant opens.

Progress Energy will hold a public forum Jan. 29 at the Raeford Civic Center, 200 College Dr., from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., to answer questions and hear from concerned residents on the best route.

“We want to hear from property owners. We want to hear everything they’ve got to say with regard to what they want us to consider as we look at and evaluate all the routes offered," Hughes said.

"We’ve brought a number of options to the table, because we truly want to find the best option between point A and point B.”


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