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Shelter Island electrical cable damaged by lightning strike

A land-based section of the new cable from Greenport to Shelter Island was damaged by a lightning strike Thursday in an incident that took out power to more than 1,400 residents.

PSEG Long Island said the lightning strike on Shelter Island at around midnight Thursday night caused “damage to a manhole in Southold,” and took out power to 1,476 Shelter Islanders for around four hours. Two other cables to the island provide redundancy power in case of a failure. Nearly all outages were restored in two hours, said spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler, with only around 76 customers waiting an additional two and a half hours for restoration.

“Crews have been working all night and today to repair the cable,” Flagler said Friday. The damaged cable is a few hundred feet from the home of Christian McShea, a Greenport resident who was the last opponent standing to the $30 million cable, which runs from a LIPA substation in Southold to the independent municipal electric system in Greenport and to Fifth Street on which he lives.

McShea said while his electricity wasn’t impacted by the outage, streetlights initially were, and crews have been on his street with pump-out equipment and ladders working to restore the damage.

The complex cable was completed in 2018 and replaced one damaged by superstorm Sandy. It was controversial because LIPA’s previous contractor for the cable failed to properly drill under Peconic Bay to Shelter Island from a different location farther west, and residents complained of the disruption. That location was ultimately abandoned, at a cost of around $9 million. 

PSEG and Greenport ultimately agreed on a new location on Fifth Street in the village. PSEG agreed to modernize some Greenport municipal utility equipment and pay a $1.3 million access fee for the cable route. Another $1.02 million was paid to the Shelter Island Heights Property Owners Corp. for access. Shelter Island, which refused to allow PSEG to install a substation on the no-industrial-zone island, was the chief beneficiary of the cable. 

McShea was concerned about the impact of the cable on his street and that Greenport village wasn’t receiving enough of a community benefits payment. Much of the horizontal drilling for the cable, which runs for 3,328 feet under the Peconic Bay at depths of up to 150 feet, was done on Fifth Street, not far from McShea's house. 

“This is exactly what I said would happen," said McShea. "I said, You’ll have trucks on your block” after an outage. “I didn’t move to Greenport to live on a power plant.”

Flagler said the repair work was to be completed by Friday afternoon.

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