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Southold supervisor warns PSEG to not resurrect failed energy cable project

Southold Supervisor, Scott Russell, earned $100,857.12 in 2014.

Southold Supervisor, Scott Russell, earned $100,857.12 in 2014. Russell has been the town supervisor since first being elected in 2005. Credit: Randee Daddona

A North Fork town supervisor said he's ready to take on PSEG Long Island if the utility attempts to resurrect a failed undersea energy cable project to address a power shortage on Shelter Island.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell on Wednesday said he's warned PSEG that the town will explore all options, including filing a lawsuit, to block a project that in 2013 angered residents near a town beach that LIPA previously selected for the cable.

LIPA and its contractors' attempts to tunnel under the Peconic Bay to place the $10 million cable failed after months of attempts and delays. Residents said heavy equipment, noise and debris disrupted their lives for months, and vowed to fight to prevent it from happening again.

"We went through this once. We won't go through it again," Russell said, adding the town would deny road-use permits to prevent use of the public beach at the end of Island View Lane again. "We think it's PSEG's obligation to explore all reasonable alternatives," he said.

PSEG Long Island spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said PSEG planners were "doing their best to put a proposal together that's going to work for everybody" but did not provide details.

PSEG officials had tried to solve the Shelter Island power shortage by splicing into an existing transmission cable that runs beneath the island. But the plan would have required building a new substation -- a facility that takes high-voltage power down to lower voltages for customer use. Town officials and residents balked at the idea of having the station near homes. A second substation proposal that would have put the facility on a town landfill was deemed too costly.

Southold residents said the shortage shouldn't impact their lives.

"Shelter Island has the problem and they're making it our problem," said Robert Swing, who owns a house next to the cable site.

Shelter Island council member Peter Reich said PSEG's plan to revisit the cable project was a relief to residents, many of whom didn't want a substation near their homes. "I wouldn't want one next to me," he said.

PSEG had previously said it was re-examining the option of the Southold-to-Shelter Island cable out of "an abundance of caution" if other options didn't work. The original cable project, started in 2013, was to have cost $10 million. LIPA ultimately fired the upstate contractor, Bortech, after its attempt to finish the project failed.

At least two other power transmission projects on Long Island also faced contentious residents. East Hampton and Port Washington residents last year opposed PSEG projects to install high-voltage transmission lines on large utility poles. The Port Washington line is running, but residents still want the line buried. The East Hampton project is stalled, awaiting a judge's ruling on a stop-work order by the town.

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