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Brookhaven councilman says PSEG didn’t explain use of tall poles

Electric line workers for PSEG Long Island install

Electric line workers for PSEG Long Island install thicker power cables on a stretch of Eastport Manor Road in Eastport, where businesses and residents have complained of towering steel poles. Credit: Newsday / Mark Harrington

Brookhaven Town councilman Dan Panico on Tuesday rebuffed claims by PSEG Long Island that he had been “thoroughly briefed” on a project to install dozens of 80-foot-tall steel poles along a business and residential district of Eastport.

Panico, whose district covers Eastport, called PSEG’s claim “absurdly false.”

He and other town officials met in private with PSEG on Tuesday to discuss residents’ and business owners’ complaints.

“That fact is that the residents and ratepayers of Eastport and the surrounding area have spent millions of dollars preserving land and working to preserve the character of the area,” Panico wrote in a Tuesday email to PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir. “PSEG came through their historic district with these large industrial poles. As the councilman for the area, I have received no briefing on this work and was as amazed as everyone else when the poles went up.”

PSEG officials, in a response to Newsday, listed four “documented” meetings with Panico in which the project was discussed, along with “at least four” informal meetings in the past six months.

PSEG officials have said the project bolsters needed power for the Eastport and East Moriches communities, and marks the start of a South Fork fortification project aimed at relieving growing electric demand in the Hamptons. PSEG is to spend about $513 million over the next decade to bring several new high-voltage power cables to Southampton, and points east. The electric provider also has plans to add a $1.62 billion wind farm and $109 million in storage batteries to help relieve growing demand. In total, the projects will add $3.67 monthly to typical ratepayer bills across Long Island.

PSEG has said burying the 69,000-volt line wasn’t an option primarily because of cost, which is $7 million to $9 million per mile. The 7-mile project has a $31.7 million price tag, meaning each mile of overhead, three-cable line of the steel-pole project costs around $4.5 million.

Panico said the last conversation he had with PSEG was about a “system upgrade” involving “larger wooden storm poles in Manorville.”

PSEG said Panico had briefings from the utility starting on Feb. 9, 2015, and continuing through April 7 of this year.

“We told him all the wood poles were being replaced with steel poles that would be taller from the substation up Eastport-Manor Road to [County Road] 51 and then up 51 to” Riverhead, PSEG said. “The project was discussed in detail and the councilman had no objections at any point.”

After the meeting with PSEG representatives, Panico responded to PSEG’s claim that there were multiple meetings with him by calling it “an outright lie.” Panico said that while he met on occasion with the staffers on other matters, “The project with steel poles on Eastport-Manor Road never, ever came up.”

He added, “I am shocked that such a statement would be made, however I’m willing to put that behind us and am hopeful PSEG will present possible solutions when they meet again in two weeks.”

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