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LIPA: New setback for Shelter Island-Southold cable

A $9-million project to snake a replacement power cable between Shelter Island and Southold, already beset by summer-long delays, suffered a major new setback last weekend when equipment malfunctioned and lodged deep in an undersea tunnel, LIPA said.

The delay could push the completion date, originally set for late May, to mid-October, a Long Island Power Authority official said Thursday.

The 4,000-foot-long tunnel, 36 inches in diameter, was being set with casing known as conduit on Saturday when equipment at the head of the casing caught and snapped 500 feet from its end point, LIPA said.

"This has been a pretty major setback for us, especially when we were so close to being done," said Nick Lizanich, vice president from transmission and distribution for LIPA.

One Southold resident near the site of the horizontal undersea drilling, who said he has been dealing with delays, noise, heavy equipment and limited beach access all summer, wasn't happy.

"How long are we expected to put up with this? It's horrendous," said Robert Swing, a resident who lives in a shorefront home beside the drilling site on Bay Shore Road near Conkling Point in Southold. He likened the sound of the drilling to that of a semi-truck revving outside his window. Drilling through the summer took place seven days a week, 12 hours a day.

LIPA has made a condominium available to him and his wife for the duration of the project, he said, but he wants his house back.

The latest problem with the broken equipment is so complex that LIPA has hired an outside contractor to review the proposed solution. That review could take several days, Lizanich said. Once the problem is fixed, LIPA still must run the actual cable through the casing, pushing the work into October.

The primary drilling and cable-casing work is being done by Bortech Co. Inc. of upstate Milton, a contractor hired by National Grid, Lizanich said.

LIPA has three cables to Shelter Island, one from the South Fork at Sag Harbor and two from the north at Southold. The work was necessary because one of the three cables failed after superstorm Sandy. LIPA is installing three separate conduit tubes in the tunnel so that it can upgrade service to Shelter Island later if needed, Lizanich said. The two remaining cables are fully functional, but LIPA has set up back-up generators to Shelter Island to ensure it will have ample power through the high-demand summer.

Lizonich said LIPA hasn't had to use the generators to date. Cost of the conduit portion of the project isn't expected to increase because of the repair work, although LIPA pays for the cost of drill bits and other equipment that wears out through use. Lazonich wouldn't say whether the final tab would increase from the original $9 million estimate. It's "way too early to speculate what the total bill will be," he said.

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