LIPA pipeline project on hold $9 million later

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Contractors working on the drilling rig Friday morning at Crescent Beach. The LIPA project is currently stopped.

The Long Island Power Authority and the Bortech Company — the contractors hired to work on the stopped electrical pipeline project between Southold and Shelter Island —  are meeting to determine how and when to proceed.

Work stopped abruptly Saturday and won’t begin until at least Wednesday on the $9 million project, according to LIPA.

The drilling rig guiding 4,000 feet of piping through an underwater tunnel between malfunctioned Saturday, just as the effort to complete that process was nearing an end. On Monday morning, officials from the two companies met and Bortech, a Milton, New York company, planned to spend the next two days trying to determine what to do next, according to LIPA spokesman Mark Gross.

He said he couldn’t speculate on whether the piping would have to be pulled back to the Island to fix the drilling rig mechanism or would require an alternative solution. Efforts to reach Bortech Company founder and CEO Robert Titanic were met with referrals back to LIPA.

Had the pipe-pulling process that began Friday been completed Saturday as expected, the next step would have been cleaning up terminals at both ends and then pulling electrical cables through the tunnel. That was expected to take about two weeks, according to LIPA vice president Nicholas Lizanich. At the same time, he predicted that the drilling that has disturbed neighbors on both sides of the project would come to an end and that work going forward would be much quieter as the digging equipment was removed and large reels of electric cabling were moved into place.

The project  began in the spring and has stretched through summer, even though there were periodic reports it would end first by Memorial Day, then by July 4 and finally at the end of August.

There have been glitches along the way, including drilling that twice proved inadequate before the workers were able to create a workable tunnel. Last week, there were some equipment breakdowns that delayed the process of feeding the pipes through the tunnel, Mr. Lizanich said.

Until the situation is evaluated, there’s no indication of how long this part of the project might be delayed and what that will mean to overall completion of the work.  On Friday, when all appeared to be going well, Mr. Lizanich said the job could be completed within 20 to 30 days.

Roads around the project ­— Shore Road and New York Avenue — have been reopened pending a resolution of the problem.

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