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Shelter Island OKs $9M LIPA plan to replace failed cable

Shelter Island Town Hall. (July 26, 2012)

Shelter Island Town Hall. (July 26, 2012) Credit: Randee Daddona

The Shelter Island Town Board, worried that losing one of its two remaining underwater electrical cables could lead to rolling blackouts this summer, has approved a $9 million Long Island Power Authority plan to replace a damaged third line.

The project, which is expected to cause noise and other inconveniences, is set to begin early next week and last up to two months. The board and an official from LIPA, which is footing the bill, are expected to discuss final details of the work at the board's work session Tuesday at 1 p.m. in town hall.

"LIPA is very concerned, as are we, with the possibility of rolling blackouts in July and August," Shelter Island Supervisor James Dougherty said Friday night as the board voted unanimously to approve the plan. "They will be working 12 hours a day."

The third cable, which failed after superstorm Sandy, is more than 40 years old and one of the oldest in the LIPA system. Southold and Shelter Island officials for months have discussed replacing the cable.

The job involves drilling a hole from Shelter Island to Southold that will be 10 to 20 feet below the seabed and will run about 5,000 feet (nearly 1 mile) in length. Once dug, a 42-inch wide pipe will be pushed through, from Southold to Shelter Island, and a new cable run from Conkling Point in Southold to Crescent Beach on Shelter Island Heights.

LIPA officials say the pipe is large enough through which to run a second cable should the demand on Shelter Island increase enough to require it.

LIPA's vice president for operations, Nick Lizanich, said the cable will ensure adequate power to Shelter Island and allow the utility to transfer electricity across Shelter Island, should an unexpected demand pop up on either the North or South Forks.

There are no LIPA generators on Shelter Island. All the electricity for its 2,300 year-round residents comes through underwater cables from both forks.

The demand for electric power increases greatly in the summer on Shelter Island, as the population more than triples and the large summer homes, restaurants, hotels and inns open to visitors.

Authority officials have been going door to door in the neighborhoods that will be impacted by the work, telling people what to expect and the measures they are taking to limit noise and other problems.

Dougherty said the job was a little like going to a doctor.

"There will be pain and suffering; it's like serious surgery," he said. "But this too shall pass."

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