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Federal Sandy aid to fund moving of power lines

A LIPA subcontracted worker works on restoring power

A LIPA subcontracted worker works on restoring power lines as night falls in Merrick. (Nov. 13, 2012) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

New York State will spend an estimated $30 million to relocate power lines as Long Islanders affected by superstorm Sandy rebuild and elevate their homes to meet new federal standards.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Saturday that the state will dedicate a portion of its $30 billion in federal Sandy aid funds to cover the cost of raising or moving power lines and poles that are interfering with homes under construction.

"We want to make sure that New Yorkers who are recovering from Hurricane Sandy do not face additional financial burdens or costs," Cuomo said. "The state is footing the bill for these adjustments to our power lines to help our communities recover and to make our state safer and more prepared for future natural disasters."

The final cost of the program, state officials said, has not been determined and will be based on site conditions.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency issued new guidelines in January requiring homeowners rebuilding in high-risk flood zones to elevate their homes or risk higher flood insurance premiums. Other homeowners across Long Island are voluntarily taking the step to avoid future storm damage.

But, residents seeking to elevate their properties quickly discovered that power lines were in the way.

Without the state's intervention, the cost of moving or raising the lines -- estimated at $20,000 to $80,000 per home -- would be borne by the homeowner, said Long Beach City Council president Scott Mandel.

"This is on top of rebuilding or renovating your house," said Mandel, who wrote to Cuomo and the Long Island Power Authority complaining about the costs. "It's adding insult to injury."

In Long Beach, 500 to 600 homes are expected to be elevated and will require power lines to be moved, said city spokesman Gordon Tepper.

In a statement, LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said the utility is working with state and local governments on a plan to raise or relocate utility poles in newly defined flood zones.

"It is expected that the utility work involved in this effort can be accomplished at no cost to customers, which is good news for everyone involved," Gross said.

LIPA will also begin holding meetings with building departments in affected areas to ensure that building permits are not delayed, Gross said.

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