While a proposed natural gas pipeline through Lake and Sumter counties might bring jobs and reduce power plant emissions, residents drilled home a common plea last week at a public meeting in Clermont: Can it go someplace else?

“We own 30 acres in Center Hill and we adamantly oppose the pipeline,” said Diane Cochran, who along with husband, Joe, own 30 acres where they are building their retirement farm to fulfill a lifelong dream.

Federal Energy Regulato ry Commission (FERC) officials hosted the last of 13 public meetings in Central Florida March 27, this one at the Citrus Tower, as part of the review process for Sabal Trail Transmissions’ plans to build a 465-mile-long natural gas pipeline from Tallapoosa County in Alabama to Osceola County. Some project maps have it cutting straight across Sumter County and the southwestern corner of Lake County.

“We’re here to hear the comments, concerns and things people want to say about any part of these projects, because we realize that nobody knows the area like the people who live here,” said Jessica Ha rris, a FERC Environmental Project Manager and Deputy Project Manager on this project. “Hearing from residents give us insight as to things that are important to the area and lets us know what we need to be focusing on.”

For Cochran, it was important that another route for the pipeline be found.

“This big company wanting to build this pipeline has turned our dream into a nightmare,” said Cochran, whose property would be cut in half by the gas transmission line. It would be located only 121 feet from the couple’s water well and less than that from their backyard fire pit, putting them in danger, she said.

“Here we are trying to save our property from a big corporation whose sole intent is to make billions of dollars, while our land is forever destroyed if it’s put there,” Cochran said.

Some 70 percent of the pipeline will follow rights-of-way, leaving 30 percent crossing private property, some of which is located on environmentally sensitive lands such as the Green Swamp. The swamp sits atop the Floridan Aquifer, the state’s underground water supply.

“Every drop of water counts and there are alternate routes we think can work for everyone involved,” resident Peggy Cox said. “If taken, (an alternate route), the water will continue flowing where it should be flowing, so we’d like them to move it (the pipeline).”

Ron Hart, Water Resources Program Manager with the Lake County Water Authority, said his main concern was the environment.

“Water flow is sensitive and the chosen path of the flow that goes in line with the big and little creek systems is historically north and south,” he said. “These are the creeks that feed into Withlacoochee and the Clermont Chain of Lakes. We want to make sure that when there is water flowing, the same volume flows into the Clermont chain — post pipeline construction — as what is flowing now.”

Jay W. Small, an Orlando attorney representing private landowners, said people across the country who have had pipelines placed on their properties have had bad experiences.

“If you have two pieces of property, one with the pipeline and one without the pipeline, that you are seriously considering, which one would you buy?” he asked. “It’s a concern that people in the real estate market have about this in the future.”

To build the pipeline, the company has said it will need a corridor at least 100 feet wide for a 24- to 36-inch pipeline that will eventually carry up to 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. The pipe would be laid about eight feet below the surface and, where necessary, the company would tunnel beneath roads and waterways.

FERC Environmental Project Manager John Peconom said the agency’s five member board – along with input from residents and working with engineers, biologists and other specialists – “will ultimately decide whether or not to approve project.”

“We want to identify the impacts of projects and research how to minimize those impacts,” Peconom said.

Not everyone at the meeting was opposed to the project, like attorney Dan Robuck.

“Power companies are working to get rid of clouds from emission problems and go to gas, so we need this trail, because the more gas we have, the cheaper it will stay,” Robuck said.

But Cochran’s main environmental concern was her farm, where she feared her farm equipment could ignite a gas leak.

“My family and I will never feel safe on our property and will never feel safe having our children and grandchildren visit us on our property, and that rocks me to my core,” she said.

FERC representative say people have until April 21 to file an ‘Information Request” form at www.ferc.gov.

Work on the pipeline is still four years away, documents show.