PSEG Long Island will pay a Shelter Island Heights property owners group a $1.02 million “access fee” to help complete a long-delayed undersea power cable to the East End island from Greenport.
Staging work for the $30 million drilling project under Peconic Bay started Wednesday as the first trucks and equipment began arriving on Fifth Street in Greeport. PSEG said digging by a third-party contractor will begin Monday.
Greenport Mayor George Hubbard said the village intends to monitor the work “like crazy” to make sure PSEG fulfills its agreement to keep disruptions to residents at a minimum and finish the work by May 15.
PSEG had hoped to start work last month, but delays in getting state permits and a final agreement with the Shelter Island Heights Property Owners Corp. held up the start date.
“We clearly would have liked to have gotten started sooner after Labor Day,” said PSEG spokesman Jeffrey Weir. But “we know what we’re up against and we’re confident we’ll be able to meet all our obligations.”
In addition to the access fee, the property owners group will also get a $30,000 easement fee and “extensive” PSEG-supplied insurance for general liability of $20 million in coverage.
PSEG must complete the work by May 15 under an agreement with Greenport, which will receive upgrades to its village electrical system and a payment of just over $1.3 million for agreeing to host the work.
Hubbard downplayed the notion that the private property owners group was getting nearly as much cash from PSEG as Greenport was, even though Shelter Island will reap most of the major benefits. “I think the deal we got is fair for the taxpayers of Greenport,” he said, noting the village is also getting a backup power line and automated switching gear that will bring back power faster in the event of a blackout.
PSEG’s contractor will drill three 12-inch-diameter tunnels over 2,650 feet between Greenport and Shelter Island, up to 120 feet under the seabed. The drilling will take place in 90 feet of water at its deepest, and the full cable from a Southold substation to Shelter Island will be 3.1 miles long, PSEG said.
While three conduit-line tunnels will be dug, only one will carry the 13,000-volt cable to the island, which has been power constrained during the summer and requires temporary generators, PSEG said. The other two tunnels will be available to remedy any future problems. There are already two other cables to Shelter Island, one from Sag Harbor and the other from Southold. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 damaged a third cable in Southold, and attempts to drill a new line ultimately failed, after infuriating nearby neighbors with construction noise, vibrations and debris.
Shelter Island town rejected a PSEG plan to build a substation on the island, citing ordinances against industrialization. One Greenport resident who lives on the road where drilling is to begin in days is preparing for the worst.
“It’s a fiasco and nobody knows what they’re in for,” said Chris McShea, whose home on Fifth Street is half a block from the tunneling site.
Hubbard said PSEG is still lacking one permit from the state, which it expects to receive Friday.