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PSEG LI offers to bury some of Eastport’s power lines

John O'Connell, PSEG vice president, is at far

John O'Connell, PSEG vice president, is at far left on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 for a public meeting at which the normally quiet hamlet of Eastport erupted in protest over giant steel poles installed by PSEG Long Island. Residents demanded that the utility bury the power lines. Credit: Newsday / Mark Harrington

PSEG Long Island officials, at a meeting in Brookhaven Town hall Thursday morning, offered to bury a portion of a controversial new power line in Eastport.

PSEG’s announcement came the morning after a raucous meeting of protesting residents Wednesday night.

Still unclear is who will pay for removing potentially dozens of giant steel poles in concrete foundations, and burying an unspecified portion of the new line.

State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who attended the meeting, said neither Eastport residents nor LIPA ratepayers should get stuck with the bill given PSEG’s failure to provide proper notice and public hearings about the work.

“When people make an ‘oops,’ the company should bear responsibility,” LaValle said, referring to PSEG’s publicly traded New Jersey parent. “They don’t see it that way. They might not make errors repeatedly if their shareholders had to bear the cost.”

Brookhaven Town Councilman Dan Panico said company officials were swayed by the large turnout at Wednesday’s public meeting in Eastport. “I think they got a very strong message.”

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said, “We had a productive meeting, we presented an offer, and we’ll formally present that in writing to them as soon as we can.”

After Wednesday night’s meeting, PSEG vice president John O’Connell told Newsday the utility would offer to bury a portion of the line.

“For the first time they have now offered to bury the power lines along Eastport Manor Road and remove the industrial-looking galvanized poles,” Panico said.

Several hundred turned out for the Wednesday night meeting to blast PSEG for failing to properly notify them of the project before it began, and to raise aesthetic and safety issues about the new poles, which were installed over four months beginning in April.

Most of the 80-foot steel poles have been placed along a wooded stretch of County Road 51. LaValle and Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) are pushing PSEG to also bury that portion of the line, in addition to the less than 1 mile stretch through the hamlet of Eastport.

PSEG has said burying the entire 7-mile power line would cost $42 million to $63 million, up to double the $31.7 million cost of stringing the entire 69,000-volt line on the galvanized poles. Several miles of that line are in a wooded area off County Road 51 beside existing transmission lines. Less than a mile is in the Eastport business and residential district, and the remaining miles along County Road 51.

Suffolk County controls the road and Leg. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) attended the meetings Wednesday and Thursday. Gil Anderson, Suffolk’s commissioner of public works, said PSEG had filed for and was granted a standard county road-opening permit for the steel-pole installation work on Suffolk roads. The permit requires that an entity working on the road has the proper insurance and the “traveling public is protected.”

“We don’t look at the size of poles or the materials they are made of,” he said. “We’re concerned vehicles traveling through our corridors are protected.”

The county does not have the authority to direct the project. “We don’t have any ability to tell them what to install or how to install it,” Anderson said. “They consider themselves a function of New York State.”

Similarly, Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said though he found the poles “tasteless, an outrage and possibly illegal,” the Pine Barrens Act as he understands it would not have barred PSEG from installing the new larger poles.

“As a legal commission issue, I don’t think the law would have prohibited this but good taste surely would,” Amper said.

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