Governor Andrew Cuomo tours a LIPA substation in Long Beach...

Governor Andrew Cuomo tours a LIPA substation in Long Beach and talks about raising the substations on the South Shore. (Oct. 25, 2013) Credit: Jeremy Bales

Federal taxpayers will fund $72 million to elevate substations in flood-prone areas on Long Island and in the Rockaways as part of efforts to make the electric grid more resilient against major coastal flooding and severe storms.

The announcement -- as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Friday toured a Long Beach substation flooded in superstorm Sandy and since elevated -- came four days before the anniversary as officials endeavor to show progress, aware of the time it takes to make necessary infrastructure improvements.

Billions of dollars in federal funds have been assigned to help Long Island, New York City and other affected upstate counties recover from the effects of the Oct. 29 storm.

"Sandy revealed serious weaknesses in the management and operation of the power utility on Long Island. Now we are investing in giving Long Island ratepayers a stronger and better utility that will be ready for the next storm," Cuomo said in a statement.

The $72 million will be spent to raise as many as 32 flood-prone coastal power transmission and distribution substations on southern Long Island and the Rockaway beach area in Queens. Already three substations have been elevated, with work underway to raise equipment or put permanent protections in place for 12 that flooded during Sandy. The funds also will be spent at another 20 substations located in the Island's flood plain, officials said.

The Park Place substation on Water Street in Long Beach, which Cuomo visited Friday, serves about 9,300 homes and businesses and, in anticipation of Sandy, was protected by a temporary wall of sandbags around key equipment. The storm surge and flooding brought more than 4 feet of water, however, inundating the station's electrical connections, switch-gear and batteries, officials said.

Though LIPA paid for initial repairs with insurance money, the federal funds are enabling elevation and added fortification. Temporary walls are being erected to protect the sites during construction.

In an after-Sandy report, LIPA said 51 substations were damaged, including the 12 that flooded. In its annual report, it estimated the cost to reconstruct substations damaged by flooding to be about $100 million, costs the authority said it thought "will be largely covered by insurance."

LIPA spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said Friday the $100 million was an estimate for Sandy damage. The figure was later revised to an actual damage cost of $85 million in initial repairs to bring the substations back online, which would be covered almost entirely by insurance. LIPA has a total of 180 substations, which step down power from high-voltage generating facilities and transmission lines for distribution in usable form to neighborhoods and businesses.

With Mark Harrington

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