The Biscayne Times

Jan 22nd
Life On a Reef PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Shimonski, BT Contributor   
October 2017

Hurricanes, tree roots, and FPL

IPix_JackKing_10-17’m no fan of hurricanes, but in my life in South Florida, I’ve been through 26 tropical storms of various velocities. Fortunately for me, I’ve never been through a storm that damaged the dwelling where I was staying.

It could be that all those houses were well overbuilt, and thankfully so. My current house was built in 1942 with poured concrete and rebar, and we added an integrated metal roof ten years ago. It doesn’t get better than that.

I live in the Grove, and on my street there was only one house that had damage -- a roof hole caused by a tree limb. Not bad for 50 houses. For all intents and purposes, the area fared quite well. I saw very few damaged dwellings. The trees were another story.

It’s pretty evident that many of the trees in the south Grove were planted in holes that were way too shallow. The reason? The Grove essentially sits on a reef, and when trees were planted years ago, the workers would dig a shallow hole and then drill a second hole in it.

Then they’d drop a quarter stick of dynamite down into the hole, and when it exploded, it would crack the rock. Then the tree would grow, literally bolted to the ground, rather than relying on a shallow root system.

And sure enough, almost all of the trees that fell over recently had roots that were planted less than six inches deep. Not a good idea. The next time you want to plant a tree, ask a really good tree guy.

Again in my younger times, the adults in the crowd used to make fun of Florida Power & Light, calling it “Florida Flicker & Flash.” That wasn’t too far from the truth. The power was always going off and on, mostly off, and generally for no obvious reason, many times on a clear day. All we could do was make fun of utility since it was the only game in town.

The good news? Because FPL was essentially a local company, everybody knew someone who was in management. It was a relief to be able to talk to someone who was part of the problem, even if they couldn’t do anything to fix it. I challenge you to be able to do that now. Hell, I challenge you to tell me where FPL’s corporate ownership is located. Hint: not in Florida.

Years ago, when I first started writing about FPL, I came up with a better moniker: “Flunder, Plunder, and Loot.” And have they lived up to it. Over the past 25 years, our power costs have gone up, by my estimates, 300 to 500 percent. Yet nuclear fuel and natural gas are at all-time lows.

And as if that’s not enough, FPL has the fewest number of employees in years. When the company needs workers, they borrow from other companies for short periods of time -- like right now.

On your bill now, you have a charge for clearing trees and bushes from your easement so there’ll be no power outages from falling limbs. Nice. I think it’s good to do this, if they’d actually do it. The last time I saw an FPL worker (or contract player) in my backyard was in 2005, right after Hurricane Wilma. Thanks for coming by every 12 years and sending me 144 bills. Generally, when someone sends me a bill, it’s for something they have done.

Every time we have one of these situations, we start discussing underground power lines. It’s a good idea if you live in Phoenix (no trees) and the subdivision was built last week.

Underground wiring isn’t easy because most of us live on the reef or on the sand or in the muck. It has a lot more minuses than pluses.

Solar power scares the hell out of FPL, and it seems to be doing everything it can to make sure it doesn’t come fast, including still charging an FPL fee for your solar. Try to understand that. But that’s what you get when you have the Florida legislature in your hip pocket.

Every time you find something in Florida that doesn’t work well, is overpriced, is antiquated, or is an outright scam, you can assume the legislature and lobbyists have their sticky, big hands in the consumers’ pockets.

And if you think solar power scares FPL, Tesla, the electric car company, is working on a storage device that works like a battery and will hold enough power to operate your house for three to four weeks. You’ll be able to fill it up in a very short time if you wish to buy power from FPL -- and hopefully from many other sources.

It’s time for the FPLs of the world to go the way of Ma Bell.


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