The East Hampton Town Board will grant an offshore wind company the right to run a power cable under town roads in exchange for $8.5 million in so-called community benefits.
Deepwater Wind is seeking to build the state’s first offshore wind farm 30 miles off the coast of Montauk, a project capable of generating 90 megawatts of power. The company is under a tight timetable, with a $1.62 billion contract with the Long Island Power Authority to build the project by 2022, and has said that obtaining permission from East Hampton for the cable — which would make landfall at a town-owned beach in Wainscott — is a necessary first step in the process.
If the town denied Deepwater permission to run the cable under town land, the company has indicated it would revoke the community benefits, which include $1 million in support for water infrastructure in Wainscott where contaminants were found in private wells and $1 million for an inshore fisheries resource assistance fund, and run it under state-owned land.
More than 25 residents spoke for and against granting the easement at the town board meeting Thursday, with those in favor citing the environmental benefits of pursuing renewable energy sources over fossil fuels. Critics' concerns included the cost of the wind power sold to LIPA and the effect on fisheries.
The East Hampton Town Board was unanimously in favor of bringing in outside counsel to draft the contract and advise on the controversial project, but split on whether to show support for the land easement before a thorough environmental review. The wind farm will undergo that review as part of its application with the state Public Service Commission.
The board voted 3-2 in favor of a resolution that memorialized the town's support for the contract, and noted their approval for the record and authorized the town to pay attorney John Wagner of Certilman Balin Adler & Hymann LLP, which has an office in Hauppauge, up to $25,000 to draft and consult on the contract.
Councilmen David Lys and Jeff Bragman voted against the resolution, essentially citing the need for more information and concerns that the community benefits package could be construed as a payoff to the town.
“What’s partially or wholly driving the bus, let’s call a spade a spade, it’s the community benefits and the money that’s on the table,” Bragman said.
Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, who along with Councilwomen Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and Sylvia Overby voted in favor of the resolution, disagreed and said he thought it was important to signal the town’s support for the project and assure Deepwater that the project could come to fruition and that the land would be available.
The easement will still require formal town board approval as well as approval from the town trustees, a separate nine-member governing body. That board has not discussed the issue in public since a May 19 public hearing.