PSEG Long Island is considering burying a portion of a new power line through the hamlet of Eastport as utility officials mull options to quell public outcry about new 80-foot steel utility poles.
PSEG began a $31 million project to bolster power to the Eastport-East Moriches area, and the South Fork, in April. It involved adding 175 steel poles 80-feet tall and 7-feet to 10-feet around, in concrete foundations. The poles carry three layers of new thicker cables.
Among the options to address complaints are burying the 69,000-volt power lines for varying distances through the hamlet, from 3/10ths of a mile to 3/4ths, including from Sunrise Highway to Montauk Highway. Officials from Brookhaven Town and PSEG are expected to meet next week to discuss the alternatives.
Burying the lines is “really the only solution,” said Brookhaven councilman Dan Panico, who met with PSEG officials last week to discuss the option.
The 80-foot steel poles would be removed, but wooden ones already in place for telephone, cable and electric distribution would remain.
Steel poles along County Route 51 might be painted or covered in vinyl, or both, to make them less obtrusive along the corridor of state and county woodlands, according to a person briefed on the options.
Officially, PSEG said it is “looking at options to address the visual impact to areas where people have expressed concerned.”
Meanwhile, three civic groups have issued an appeal to state lawmakers to intercede in the matter, accusing PSEG of “running roughshod over residents in our area.”
The letter by the Eastport Green Project, the East Moriches Property Owners Association and the Moriches Bay Civic Association asked lawmakers to bury the lines from Sunrise to Montauk Highway. The group also expressed outrage they were never notified of the plan.
“The fact that they have not set up a public meeting to see what people actually think is really quite surprising,” said Jim Gleason, director of the East Moriches Property Owners Association.
Panico last week accused PSEG of “outright lies” after the utility said it had briefed him on at least four occasions about the steel-pole project, which is uncommon in a residential district for the island.
Despite the friction, Panico and other Brookhaven officials have long-standing ties to at least one PSEG official, Bill Faulk, a regional public affairs manager for the utility. Faulk, who attended a meeting last week between PSEG and Panico, is a former top town aide.
PSEG in 2015 drew sharp criticism from local residents when it began new power line projects in Port Washington and East Hampton. The state Department of Public Service said the utility had to take “a more thoughtful approach to aesthetics and provide advance notice to the public on future projects, as well as a meaningful opportunity for ratepayers to have their say.”
Should PSEG follow through on burying the line, Panico said the utility, not local residents, should “pick up the cost entirely” — from $7 million to $9 million per mile to underground, or half that amount if only half is buried.