PSEG Long Island appears to be backing away from the prospect of burying a portion of a controversial new power line strung on 80-foot steel poles through the hamlet of Eastport, according to local officials, despite earlier indications it was an option.
“They have made no concrete offer” to bury the 69,000-volt power line, said Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine after what he described as a “tense” meeting with PSEG representatives and other lawmakers on June 29. Instead, he said, “they said they’ll paint the poles and do some plantings. Obviously, that’s not an adequate response. We are examining our options.” Another meeting is planned for later this month.
Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who had a representative at the meeting, said he disagreed with the utility’s position.
“They have not offered to bury the lines — any of them,” he said. “I disagree with that decision. It’s my opinion those lines should be buried. They go through a historic part of Eastport and the Pine Barrens. They should be buried and PSEG should pay for it.”
Thiele said PSEG may reconsider that position, but a spokeswoman for the company declined to confirm that.
In a prepared statement, spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler declined to answer Newsday questions about solutions proposed at the meeting. “We had a good discussion with the local stakeholders to develop solutions to address concerns and will be meeting in a couple of weeks to follow up,” she said.
Asked if burying the line was an option, as PSEG had previously indicated, Flagler said she would not comment. The statement says the company would provide a “safe and reliable electric system, while balancing the impact of cost to all our customers.”
PSEG has previously indicated that cost was a factor in the decision to put the power line on steel poles rather than bury it.
PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said burying the line would have cost $6 million to $9 million per mile, or $42 million to $63 million. Putting the line on steel poles cost $31.7 million, or around $4.5 million a mile. PSEG has not said what the cost would be to remove the steel poles.
State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who also sent representatives to the meeting, said he will continue to urge PSEG to bury the lines.
“There’s no way you can rationalize those poles on a beautiful stretch of Route 51, they take a beautiful view, and they blight it,” he said. Noting past tall-pole controversies in East Hampton and Port Washington, LaValle asked, “How many times do they have to get hit on the side of their head? The only rational choice . . . is they’re going to have to bury the lines for a part or all of that way.”
Meanwhile, community groups have scheduled a meeting for the Eastport Firehouse on July 12. The purpose of the meeting, said officials at the Eastport Green Project, is to “show unity in our disappointment of PSEG’s disregard for the character of Eastport’s historic district,” according to an email from the group.
Romaine and Brookhaven Town Councilman Dan Panico have said PSEG never notified them of plans to erect more than 175 of the steel poles, the largest of which have a 10-foot circumference and are set in concrete foundations, from a substation in Riverhead to another in Eastport. Most of the poles are on the primarily wooded County Road 51. The last mile of the poles is on Eastport Manor Road in a historic district of homes and businesses.