E. Hampton residents push to halt utility poles

East Hampton residents concerned that a new overhead transmission line through their neighborhood could be in place for two years before an underground line replaces it are doubling down on their demand that PSEG Long Island halt construction immediately.

Members of an advocacy group called Save East Hampton indicated in a statement Tuesday that they will pressure state and local officials to halt work on the project, even as contractors for PSEG Long Island are nearing completion of utility-pole installation.

"Save East Hampton is committed to fighting the continuation of the project as it is," the residents' group said, despite an agreement last week that said the existing project would move forward.


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Jeff Weir, a spokesman for PSEG Long Island, said the company was "surprised" at the continued call for work to stop, particularly given last week's agreement among the parties that work would go forward while options for burying the lines were explored.

Save East Hampton spokeswoman Rebecca Singer said the group is urging residents to call local elected officials to force PSEG to stop work now, and is considering protests and rallies. "We are not willing to accept that the project cannot be halted now and the money saved, used towards removing the work that has been completed," she said.

Residents, state and local lawmakers and PSEG Long Island's top brass met twice last week to hammer out an agreement that would have the new 6-mile transmission line carrying 23,000 volts replaced by an underground line -- so long as East Hampton can come up with the funds to pay for it. PSEG estimates the cost to put the line underground could approach $30 million.

That doesn't include the cost to remove 266 giant new poles, all but 20 of which already have been installed at a cost of $7 million, a condition outlined in last week's agreement. Utility officials said they would prefer to lop off the top 10 feet of the new poles once a new underground line is in place, which could take up to to 16 months. The poles, PSEG said, are needed for electricity distribution and telephone and cable TV lines.

PSEG says it would cost $600,000 to cut the poles down to size. It's unclear how much more it would cost to remove the poles entirely.

The new transmission line, with capacity of up to 33,000 volts, would provide a third vital link between two substations in the town -- from East Hampton Village to Amagansett. Two existing transmission lines run along the LIRR in the village, but a third is needed to provide additional reliability and capacity, PSEG said

.

Last May, National Grid shut down three diesel electric generators in Montauk that provided 6 megawatts of power, enough to meet the needs of up to 4,000 residents during the peak summer season. It was one factor contributing to the need for the new line. PSEG has 23,000 customers in East Hampton Town.

The overhead transmission line is slated to be completed by the end of May.

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