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Riverhead delays decision on environmental impact of proposed solar facility

Amid questions from residents about the potential environmental impact of a proposed 22.9-megawatt solar facility in Calverton, Riverhead officials have delayed a decision on whether the facility needs further environmental review until they have more information.

The town board voted 5-0 at a special meeting Wednesday to table a resolution that would have issued a declaration stating that a solar facility on 197 acres of property on Edwards Avenue would have “no significant adverse environmental impacts.”

The facility, proposed by LI Solar Generation LLC, a partner of NextEra Energy Resources LLC, is seeking a special permit to construct the solar farm, which would include underground transmission lines, a 34.5-138 kV transformer, fencing, landscaping, road, grading and drainage improvements on the property. The facility will provide power for approximately 4,500 homes, according to a project narrative from LI Solar Generation. 

Residents at the meeting said they were concerned about potential environmental impacts the facility might have on the surrounding property and that there had not been enough information available on environmental studies regarding the facility before Wednesday's meeting.

“Nobody is looking to stop the project, but it has to be certain there are not any adverse impacts to our community,” said Barbara Blass, a Jamesport resident.

Ed Graham, of Riverhead, said the town risked potential lawsuits if it turns out that the solar farm project harms the surrounding environment, and urged the board to do their “due diligence” and debate the matter further.

Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said Wednesday that she wants more time for the board to review new sections of the project’s environmental assessment form, which she said the board had not had time to review.

“It is unfortunate that it’s down to the wire, but it doesn’t supersede our due diligence,” Jens-Smith said. “And hopefully we can move swiftly so we can come to a resolution.”

Steve Losquardo, a Rocky Point attorney representing LI Solar Generation, said Thursday that while his clients are required to present a negative declaration on the project to LIPA by December to move forward, they remain confident they proceed on schedule.

Losquadro added that his clients presented all required project documents on time, which were deemed “fully complete and submitted” when the town requested them. Losquadro said the solar farm would have “no harm or reshaping to the land, zero tree clearing” and would bring “substantial community benefits,” including tax revenue for the school district.

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