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Greenport residents say they’ll feel brunt of Shelter Island cable

Greenport Harbor in Greenport, looking from Shelter Island,

Greenport Harbor in Greenport, looking from Shelter Island, is seen on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016. Credit: Greenport Harbor in Greenport, looking from Shelter Island, is seen on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016.

Concerns about a PSEG Long Island proposal to drill an undersea pipeline from downtown Greenport to Shelter Island to feed a new power cable exploded into the open at a village board meeting last week, even as an official said the project could cut local property taxes by 5 percent.

As the first details of the project emerged, Greenport’s board on Thursday approved a resolution to become lead agency for the proposal, a move officials and residents said would give it greater control over potential environmental and other impacts. PSEG had planned to be lead agency.

The plan to boost Shelter Island’s power options has had a troubled history. LIPA’s previous contractor, National Grid, had worked with an outside company to drill a cable from Southold last year, but the project failed when a drill part broke. Residents and Southold officials complaining of noise and disruptions refused to allow a second attempt.

The latest $30 million cable plan from Greenport was conceived earlier this year after Shelter Island residents and their officials rejected a plan to build a power station on the island to deal with a worsening power shortage, a move many said would be the ideal solution. Shelter Island rejected it because it would “industrialize” the island. PSEG pays about $850,000 a year to put temporary generators on Shelter Island to meet power needs in summer.

Greenport officials have been meeting for months with PSEG officials to start the cable’s undersea portion at a beach on Fifth Street in the village. It would be drilled under the Peconic Bay to Shelter Island Heights, whose residents also must agree to accommodate the project.

At the Greenport Village Board meeting Thursday, residents expressed outrage that the biggest disruptions would take place on their end of the cable, not on Shelter Island, whose residents it would serve.

Oysterman Mike Osinski said the plan to start drilling in October could disrupt his oyster harvest, which starts in earnest next month, and he was concerned about the effects to water quality.

Like many others, Osinski also objected to Greenport’s bearing the brunt of the drilling. “What the hell are we doing with the drilling equipment over here?” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me. Put it over there.”

Ralph Edwards, a resident of Fifth Street, said that while there would be financial benefits for residents, he was concerned village officials weren’t looking out for residents’ interests. “You all look like a bunch of patsies” in the cable project, he said. “Nobody’s reached out to me and I’m going to be really impacted when this project begins.”

Mayor George Hubbard said the village hasn’t “signed a contract for anything yet,” and stressed he had “no personal interest” in the project. “I would like to see it go forward [because] it would be financially viable for the village.”

In addition to the 5 percent reduction in village property taxes, he said it would help pay for other infrastructure projects. Hubbard said the project would, if approved, start in October and end by January at the latest. Fifth Street would be repaved in April.

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said the utility was “confident that we will be able to work with the Village of Greenport on any concerns that they have regarding the [environmental review] process and will continue to respect and protect the interests of the village and its residents.”

He said the company plans to “work closely with the village, its residents, and the local communities along the project route, providing them with the information they seek and addressing any concerns that they may have related to the project. We are committed to ensuring that the much-needed project will minimize any impacts to local communities.”

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