Will PSEG take on new underwater cable project on North Fork?

PSEG construction on Shelter Island. (Credit: Shelter Island Reporter, file)
PSEG construction on Shelter Island. (Credit: Shelter Island Reporter, file)

In a unanimous vote, the Shelter Island Town Board passed legislation Friday afternoon banning electrical substations on the island. 

This now places the responsibility on the power company, PSEG, to construct an underwater cable from the North Fork — an effort that failed spectacularly two years ago — to the Island that will ensure reliable backup electricity. 

Only three days after Shelter Island residents packed the Town Hall meeting room to hear PSEG’s detailed plan for a facility at the old Highway Barn site on South Ferry Road, the board passed a resolution banning all substations since, the legislation states, “a substation is industrial in nature and is not compatible with the rural, residential nature of Shelter Island.”

The resolution went on to recommend the building of an “underwater cable as a good solution to the electric reliability issues.”

The legislation is unequivocal about rejecting an effort to build a substation anywhere on the Island. The community roundly opposed the plan for the South Ferry Road site when it was proposed on three occasions by PSEG. Another site at town-owned property near New York Avenue and West Neck Road south of Ice Pond was suggested by the power company but never pursued, the same as building a substation at the Recycling Center.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell responded forcefully to the idea that another attempt be made to link Shelter Island to a substation on the North Fork. “It’s never going to happen,” Mr. Russell said.

He had met with PSEG officials some time ago and delivered that message and said Monday that “we’re sticking to our guns here.” His administration will do whatever is necessary to block a cable from the Crescent Beach area under the bay to a Southold substation, he added.

“We gave them an opportunity,” the supervisor said, referring to the initial attempt by Long Island Power Authority and its subcontractor, Bortech, to drill for a cable.

Complaints from Southold residents about noise, dirt and other problems during Bortech’s failed attempt in the summer of 2013 won’t be repeated, Mr. Russell said. “Our battle is not with PSEG,” he added. “It’s with Shelter Island.”

Asked for comment, Jeffrey Weir, a spokesman for PSEG, said in a statement: “We are committed to providing Shelter Island with the safe, reliable and resilient power that it absolutely needs and we are examining all of our options.”

After the unanimous vote, Councilman Paul Shepherd said he had voted for the ban with “reservations.” Mr. Shepherd said he was “disturbed by the conclusion in that resolution that somehow a substation was not the best solution for Shelter Island, at least from a technical point of view.”

Mr. Shepherd believes a substation “still remains the best thing for us,” but finding a place for one is a challenge.

Nevertheless, he voted with his colleagues to pass the resolution.

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