PSEG Long Island is reconsidering a controversial undersea cable from Southold to Shelter Island, after Shelter Island rejected the utility's favored site for a substation that would have resolved the East End island's power squeeze, PSEG said.
Residents said four staffers from PSEG appeared Wednesday on a Southold beach near the site of the failed $10 million cable project, which was abandoned last year after a drill head broke off and blocked a newly dug undersea tunnel.
Since then, PSEG, which took over management of the utility in January, had been working on an alternative plan that would allow Shelter Island to get power from a different cable that already ran under the island. The utility worked to identify a site for a substation to link to that cable.
But village board members recently rejected that site, PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said. The proposed location was in an old highway depot that abuts a small neighborhood where many residents were opposed to the facility, Newsday has reported.
"It was fairly evident it [the substation] was not the sort of thing we wanted to put in the community right there," Shelter Island Town Councilman Paul Shepherd said. Town officials visited a substation in Jamesport and discovered "it's not pretty stuff." There were also concerns, confirmed by the town tax assessor, that property values would be affected, he said.
Shepherd said a second site near the town landfill remains under consideration. The only concern is its distance from the cable it must connect with. "It's a long stretch of road," he said.
Weir said the utility remains "committed" to finding a site on Shelter Island to build the substation.
Workers went to explore the controversial Southold cable site out of an abundance of caution, should PSEG fail to find a suitable Shelter Island substation site, Weir said.
"We are doing our due diligence to investigate the site, and being incredibly prudent and exploring all of our options" if the firm has to resort to the sea bed cable, he said.
Southold residents who opposed the project last year said they were prepared to go to court over the issue.
"We sent them a letter stating if they attempted to do it again we would take legal action," said Robert Swing, a Southold resident whose home sits beside the former cable work area. He said the six-month attempt to dig the cable constituted a "nightmare" of noise, spills and vibrations.Shepherd said he sympathized with Southold residents. "They lived with hell that summer and then to have it fail?"
Shelter Island Supervisor James Dougherty could not be reached for comment.
Weir said the utility must begin choosing an option soon due to plans to have a new power source operating by summer 2016.
While Weir said PSEG is far from any final decision, he noted that the company has a "long and successful track record and experience working with undersea cabling and contractors that do that kind of work."