01/28/14 11:00am
01/28/2014 11:00 AM

FILE PHOTO | Drill rigs rusting at Crescent Beach last Autumn during botched efforts to run an electric cable between the North Fork and the Island.

There’s no start date and there might not even be a plan.

The LIPA cable project that ground to a halt after months of missed deadlines, botched work, cost overruns and cheery reports that all was well, is now in the hands of the new power provider, PSEG.

A PSEG spokesman on Monday said he’s not free to discuss in detail the status of the project.

Jeffrey Weir, the director of communications for PSEG, told a Times/Review reporter that PSEG has been evaluating the situation that resulted in the Long Island Power Authority firing its contractor, Bortech, last fall after failure to be able to resolve an equipment breakdown that left the project in limbo.

PSEG took over LIPA on Jan. 1 and received a Jan. 10 letter from Shelter Island Town Supervior Jim Dougherty asking that the project to replace cables damaged during Superstorm Sandy be given a high priority. Previously, town officials had been told plans were in place to return generators to Shelter Island this spring to ensure that, if the remaining cable become inoperable, there would still be electric power.

Mr. Weir said he couldn’t comment further about the plans for the generators being returned to the Island.

“I’m not entirely certain what all progress has been made,” Mr. Weir said. “It’s a complicated situation and they’re working it through,” he said, referring to PSEG officials. “Our main concern is making sure the residents of Shelter Island have reliable and safe power and so whatever it takes to make that happen, we’ll do that.”

While Shelter Islanders have had to worry about sustaining power since the project got under way last spring, residents on both sides of the Harbor have been disturbed by noise and dirt associated with the project that initially was supposed to be completed by Memorial Day last May. Continued problems led to constant delays and just when it finally appeared that completion was in sight at the end of August, a piece of drilling rig broke just 500 feet short of the Greenport side.

By October, LIPA fired Bortech. But word was a new contractor would be hired with work due to begin again in January. LIPA said the delay was, at least in part, linked to the PSEG takeover of operations in January.

Then in December, Mr. Dougherty announced that he had been told by LIPA officials — still in charge until PSEG took over operations January 1 — that no work would begin for months, but that generators would be returned to Shelter Island this spring.

Mr. Dougherty said then he wanted assurances the project would be completed by April 30.

[email protected]

10/07/13 10:43am
CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | Equipment and a portable bathroom in front of the home of Robert and Celia Swing at the intersection of Island View Lane and Bay Shore Road.

CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | Equipment and a portable bathroom in front of the home of Robert and Celia Swing at the intersection of Island View Lane and Bay Shore Road.

Days after the Long Island Power Authority fired the contractor installing an electrical distribution cable from Greenport to Shelter Island, neighbors inconvenienced by the noise from months of heavy drilling say they want to see the project moved to another location.

“I just don’t think they should think about the same location again,” said Greenport resident Celia Swing, who lives with her husband directly next to the drilling site at the intersection of Island View Lane and Bay Shore Road.

The $9 million project aimed at boosting Shelter Island’s power supply stalled in August when a when a piece of the drill rig broke off in the pipeline 500 feet from the Greenport shoreline.

LIPA, which fired Bortech, the subcontractor hired for the project, last week said work on the project will not continue until next year.

Ms. Swing said the residents of her street have already been impacted enough.

“Maybe a commercial area would be better because there is no point for them to do this [here] again,” she said. “It is such a hardship for the community and everyone has lost their beach. They have to look at other options. This is a gigantic effort and there is no simple solution.”

LIPA Chief Operating Officer John McMahon expressed regret for the way the project played out during a LIPA board meeting last week.

“It took longer than we wanted it to, and the impact of the residents in the area affected by construction was unfortunate and we regret that,” he said.

Ms. Swing said she has not yet heard from LIPA, but she hopes they will involve the community before the project picks up again next year.

[email protected]

10/03/13 11:21am
10/03/2013 11:21 AM

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Bortech workers in August running pipes to Crescent Beach for a power pipeline just before work was stopped. Word came yesterday that the contractor had been fired by LIPA and National Grid on the $9 million project.

Long Island Power Authority has washed its hands of Bortech.

LIPA spokesman Mark Gross released a statement yesterday evening that its contract with Bortech, the company digging a pipeline under the bay from Crescent Beach to Southold, has been voided. No new work is expected until sometime in 2014 as the power company and its corporate partner, National Grid, look for a new contractor.

“National Grid, our service provider and project manager on this project, notified our drilling contractor Bortech that they have been terminated,” the statement from Mr. Gross said.  “While work on the project will stop immediately, we are currently negotiating an amount of time for them to properly demobilize from the work site (both Shelter Island and Southold). Any options going forward to complete this project must make complete technical and economic sense. Once National Grid presents these options to LIPA we will review them and move forward with a course of action. We would not expect any physical work on the project to start until after the new year.”

A call to Bortech for further information was not returned.

Started in April to provide a much-needed backup source of electricity for the Island, the $9 million project was originally scheduled to be completed by Memorial Day.

09/30/13 5:52pm
09/30/2013 5:52 PM

BEV WALZ PHOTO | Bortech workers under contract by LIPA running pipe n August. Major work has been put on hold for more than a month because of project malfunctions, and LIPA’S patience now seems to be at an end.

With a deadline imposed for tomorrow, the Long Island Power Authority’s contract with Bortech to complete the long-delayed power pipeline project from Greenport to Shelter Island seems to be history.

Nick Lizanich, vice president of transmission and distribution for LIPA, said Monday afternoon that Bortech had failed to hit “major milestones” set on the company a month ago.

“The reality is [Bortech] is nowhere near finishing those milestones,” Mr. Lizanich said.

The primary goal Bortech missed is extracting a broken drill head in the tunnel between Crescent Beach and Greenport that would have carried power lines. The drill head malfunctioned in late August and stopped the project in its tracks. Bortech has been trying ever since to get the project back on track.

Mr. Lizanich said Bortech continues to propose alternatives, but it was clear that patience has run out at LIPA and its corporate partner, National Grid.

Alternatives now include terminating Bortech’s contract “and get someone else in to complete the conduit extension,” Mr. Lizanich said.

Another option is to give Bortech an extension. “But from my perspective, that’s what I gave then 30 days ago,” Mr. Lizanich said.

LIPA and National Grid are scheduled to put their heads together tomorrow to discuss the situation. There would be a final decision later in the week, “or sooner,” Mr. Lizanich said

LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said two weeks ago,  ”We certainly share the frustration with those residents that are affected by the project and while we understand the project does have its challenges, at some point we have to move forward and I think that’s what the deadline represents.”

Once the Sept. 30 deadline passes, LIPA officials “will explore all the options available to [them], and move forward,” Mr. Gross said previously.

If a new contractor is brought on board, decisions will have to be made to complete the tunnel already dug, or “start fresh,” Mr. Lizanich said.

Started in April to provide a much-needed backup source of electricity, the $9 million project was originally scheduled to be completed by Memorial Day.

Bortech did not comment on the matter.