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State agencies back Wainscott wind-power cable route as citizens push alternative

The town beach at Beach Lane in Wainscott

The town beach at Beach Lane in Wainscott last December. Credit: Newsday / Mark Harrington

Five New York State agencies are the latest signatories to a proposal to land an undersea cable for the South Fork Wind Farm on a beach in Wainscott, as residents who oppose it filed paperwork proposing an alternative route.

The five state agencies, including the Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Transportation and Department of State, join a list of individuals, wind-energy advocates and local government agencies that already have signed onto the so-called joint proposal or expressed support for it.

The DEC, in its filing, said it was "satisfied that environmental impacts will be minimal and primarily of a temporary nature" so long as the state Public Service Commission, which must ultimately approve the plan, adopts certain conditions into the final plan.

The 4.1-mile land portion of the cable would come ashore at a public beach in Wainscott and traverse Beach Lane and other parts of Wainscott before connecting to a LIPA substation in East Hampton. Around 1,500 residents have signed a petition opposing it, but it’s got support from groups such as Win With Wind and Montauk United.

The Wainscott opposition group, known as the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, on Friday filed paperwork, charging the developers of the South Fork Wind Farm didn’t fully explore alternatives to the Beach Lane route. And they are now proposing a new route for the 138,000-volt cable that would land it around nine miles to the east, in Amagansett, rather than Wainscott.

In a filing with the state Department of Public Service, which must ultimately approve the landing site and plan, the citizens group said the Wainscott route violates the law and state policy, while their newly proposed Atlantic Beach landing site and route in Amagansett is "the best available." They said the newly proposed alternative route would "minimize adverse environmental impacts," use more existing commercial, industrial and utility rights of way, eliminate the need for a new power substation, and pave the way for more power connections to serve the East End.

Meaghan Wims, a spokeswoman for developer South Fork Wind, said, "We are confident in our analysis of all possible routes and in the consensus that the Beach Lane route will have the least impact on the environment and the community."

She said the company was "grateful" for the state agencies' support for the joint proposal, which she said "reflects a strong set of conditions that represent the considerable stakeholder feedback we received and highlights our commitment to working with all parties."

Michael Hansen, a Wainscott resident who sits on offshore wind advocacy group Wind With Wind’s steering committee, called the five state agencies’ support for the joint proposal "very significant."

The joint proposal "is a document that’s so detailed and so strongly vetted. They’ve done so much work to get this right. Let’s see how far money and power can take these folks in trying to stop us," he said of Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott.

In a letter to Wainscott residents, Gouri Edlich, chairwoman of Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, said the group is "poised to initiate litigation against both the East Hampton Town Board and the [East Hampton Town] Trustees to stop their plan to shortcut New York State law by granting easements prior to the conclusion" of the state approval process for the cable, known as Article VII.

Trustees voted to approve the plan two weeks ago, and the town board could vote on it soon, after reaching a settlement in principle with the wind farm developers, Orsted and Eversource, that would provide $29 million to the town over 25 years.

South Fork Wind is a 130-megawatt, $2 billion-plus project contracted by LIPA for the waters off Massachusetts and Rhode Island to provide renewable power chiefly to the South Fork. It was scheduled for completion in December 2022, but that completion date is expected to be pushed back.

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