Town and LIPA still negotiating on power lines

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Southampton Town and the Long Island Power Authority are still locked in negotiations over whether to bury the entire length of a new transmission line from Southampton Village to a substation in Bridgehampton.

LIPA contractors began laying conduit to house underground portions of the line at its substation on North Sea Road in Southampton Village last week.

“Negotiations are still ongoing,” LIPA spokesman Ed Dumas said on Wednesday morning, echoing reports from Town Board member Anna Throne-Holst, who said Tuesday that the town and LIPA are hard at work exchanging proposals to come up with a solution that both sides can agree to within the next few days. Both sides had expected to reach a deal by the end of last week.

LIPA plans to bury 55 percent of the 8.5-mile stretch of line in Southampton Village and along a scenic stretch of Scuttle Hole Road, but plans to place the central portion of the line’s route on new, 48-foot-high poles that are 22 inches in diameter, with 22 larger poles at intersections and locations where the line enters and exits the ground.

Neighbors are concerned that the lines will create a safety hazard in the event of a hurricane and will diminish their property values.

The town has offered to allow residents in eastern Southampton to pay $8 million to bury the remainder of the line through a usage-based “visual amenity surcharge” on their utility bills that will average $3.70 per month per house.

LIPA asked the town to pick up the tab if any ratepayers sue the utility or refuse to pay the surcharge, but town officials refused, leading to a standoff as work began two weeks ago.

Neighbors of the project filed suit against LIPA as work began on March 28. Southampton Town had filed a notice of intent to sue the utility on March 27, but withdrew that threat last week in the hopes of hammering out a deal.

Environmentalists also recently weighed in on the project. Columbia University law professor Edward Lloyd sent a letter to LIPA’s environmental affairs division in mid-March on behalf of Andrew Sabin, an East End environmental activist with a long history of protecting tiger salamander habitat. Mr. Sabin reportedly told LIPA’s consultants in February that “there are vernal ponds that are breeding habitat for tiger salamanders in the vicinity of the 4-acre tract” proposed for the new substation, according to Mr. Lloyd’s letter. Mr. Sabin recommended moving the substation to farmland that is not a habitat for the tiger salamander.

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