The Long Island Power Authority will meet with National Grid this week as the contractor formulates a new plan to complete a $9 million Southold-Shelter Island cable that could include finding a new drilling contractor, LIPA said.
LIPA said that in a worst-case scenario it could be necessary to drill a new tunnel from scratch, which would constitute a major setback for a project originally scheduled for completion in May.
LIPA said it would prefer that a new drilling contractor, if needed, work with the existing tunnel.
The drilling subcontractor, Bortech Co., of Milton, N.Y., had not met a 30-day deadline imposed by LIPA to clear a major blockage in the 4,000-foot-long tunnel located 50 feet beneath the sea floor in a channel near Peconic Bay. The 36-inch-round tunnel, which is under some 90 feet of water, is part of a project to upgrade service to Shelter Island after a cable failed during superstorm Sandy.
Last month, while Bortech was installing a plastic lining for the cable, a large drill head snapped off and became lodged in the tunnel, near the Southold end, suspending work.
It was the latest in a series of delays and mishaps that have angered Southold residents because of blocked access to a local beach, noise and sludge problems, and streets crowded with heavy equipment.
"We suggest they go to Plan B," said Robert Swing, a resident whose home is less than 20 feet from the work site.
Nick Lizanich, vice president of transmission and distribution for LIPA, said the meeting with National Grid will focus on a list of options that includes replacing Bortech.
Calls to Bortech weren't immediately returned.
If LIPA has to find a new contractor, it could result in delays of one to two months, Lizanich said, because LIPA would have to put the project out to bid. LIPA's hope, he said, is that any new contractor would be able to use the existing tunnel, rather than drill a new one, which would involve securing new permits and other red tape.