Editorial: LIPA project can’t be dead in the water

09/06/2013 5:00 PM |

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO |  Construction and heavy drilling machinery has become the norm at Island View Lane in Greenport.

When you buy a house on a street called Island View Lane there’s a certain anticipation that when you walk out your front door you’ll be treated to a scenic vista worthy of the name. You expect to see water and an island and, in the case of Island View in Greenport, the beautiful vista across the western edge of Greenport Harbor to Shelter Island.

But in the case of Jessica Kerr and Larry Cafaro, residents of Island View Lane, that view has been obstructed for much of this year by a construction site where contractors operate heavy drilling machinery as they complete a Long Island Power Authority project to install a new electrical distribution cable from Greenport to Shelter Island.

Until recently, the couple and their neighbors could at least see light at the end of the pipeline, as the project, which began in April, neared completion.

Now, following a mechanical failure by the company LIPA hired to do the work, there is no end in sight. About two weeks ago, the $9 million project was put on hold indefinitely after a drill rig broke off in the pipeline 50 feet below the bay’s bottom. The broken piece of machinery remains stuck about 500 feet from Greenport’s shore.

LIPA and the contractor, Bortech Company Inc., are now working to develop a plan to correct the problem and finish the job. We hope nobody’s holding their breath out there in the bay.

You see, there’s a certain expectation associated with the name Long Island Power Authority, too. It’s one of ineptitude and failure.

It was less than a year ago that it took LIPA and the many contractors it hired weeks to restore power to Long Island after superstorm Sandy. Even after the region’s other utilities had completed their restoration efforts, much of Long Island remained in the dark. (Coincidentally, the pipeline project became necessary after a cable on Shelter Island was damaged during Sandy.)

When you factor in LIPA’s reputation for shoddy work, it’s not hard to imagine how this plan became derailed. This is a utility that in the past decade has introduced hikes of nearly $500 a year for ratepayers — who pay among the highest rates in the nation — despite the company’s debt of more than $7 billion, according to state officials.

It seems fitting that LIPA hired a company run by a CEO with the last name Titanic to complete an underwater drilling project that has struck the proverbial iceberg. It’s important that the utility now do its best to make sure this project doesn’t become a sinking ship. After spending $9 million — not to mention inconveniencing residents on Island View Lane and Bay Shore Road with drilling work that went on 12 hours, seven days a week — LIPA needs to find a way to complete this job in a timely and cost-effective manner.

The people of Island View Lane have been inconvenienced long enough. So, too, have LIPA ratepayers.