Shelter Island seeks PSEG help with cable repair

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Shelter Island officials worried about maintaining electric service are asking PSEG Long Island to make replacement of an underwater power cable from Greenport a priority project.

The cable is needed because one of the two cables from Greenport that bring power to Long Island's smallest town -- Shelter Island has no electrical generating facility of its own -- was destroyed during superstorm Sandy in 2012, and efforts last year by the Long Island Power Authority to replace it led only to frustration and failure.

Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty wrote to PSEG earlier this month, warning that "the town is precariously close to losing adequate electric service should the remaining cable be damaged."

When the town board approved a permit last spring for the $9-million cable replacement project, it expected the job to be finished by Memorial Day. Then the timeline was extended to the Fourth of July, and eventually Labor Day.

Shelter Island has about 2,300 year-round residents, and the population more than triples in summer.

The 4,000-foot-long underwater conduit that was to carry the cable was only 500 feet from Shelter Island when the drill snapped and got stuck, with no way to get it out. In October, contractor Bortech Co., of upstate Milton, was fired after months of delay and the drilling rig malfunction that finally stopped the project.

Now, after a summer of complaints about noise and other problems caused by the work, Dougherty said he has assurances from LIPA that PSEG would take over the work. But, he added, it would be good if the work was completed before summer.

"Last year's abortive attempt during our peak tourist season created great difficulties that we do not wish to repeat . . . " he wrote to PSEG Long Island.

Before superstorm Sandy, there were three underground power cables serving Shelter Island -- one from Sag Harbor and the other two from Greenport.

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PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said Thursday that the utility had gotten the supervisor's letter and was looking at options to complete the project. He pointed out that PSEG only took over utility operations on Jan. 1.

"This is a complicated matter," Weir said. "We want to make sure we do it the right way. We have been evaluating everything to make sure they [Shelter Island] have constant, reliable power."

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