Sandy Relief Money Might Be Used To Bury PSEG Lines In East Hampton

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Residents of McGuirk Street and nearby roads in the Village of East Hampton might get their wish—for PSEG Long Island to eliminate its new high-voltage utility poles.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo reached an agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to upgrade Long Island’s electrical grid, allocating $1.4 billion in federal recovery funds for storm repair and mitigation, according to a press release issued on Friday.

The funding, according to the release, will “cover the … strategic undergrounding of appropriate power circuits” as well as elevate damaged substations and build a new system to automatically sectionalize switches to cut down on power outages.

However, the criteria to qualify for this funding, said PSEG’s director of communication Jeff Weir, excludes new construction.

“The project in East Hampton is new,” said Mr. Weir, “and as we see it, the criterion disqualifies them from the funding.”

According to the release, the “nature and type of mitigation that will be most effective” will be up to the state’s discretion.

As of press time, the governor’s office could not be reached for comment.

Over the past month, Save East Hampton—Safe, Responsible Energy, a group of village and town residents, has been working with its attorneys at Tarbet and Lester, East Hampton Town, and East Hampton Village in asking PSEG to find an alternative route for the transmission lines or to bury the lines. The group has argued that the poles are health and public safety hazards as well as a detriment to property value.

East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. mailed a letter to Governor Cuomo on February 19, requesting that Mr. Cuomo assist the village in halting the installation of high-voltage utility poles and a transmission line on McGuirk Street and neighboring roads until village and town officials and residents sit down with PSEG to review the project. A meeting is set to be held in the next few weeks, said Mr. Weir.

Mr. Rickenbach, who hosted a meeting in September of village trustees, PSEG and residents who would be affected by the new transmission poles, said the village tried “in good faith to be transparent,” but that the residents’ concerns are understandable and the village will work toward meeting their needs.

Mr. Rickenbach’s effort comes on the heels of a similar letter to Mr. Cuomo from East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, who requested “immediate intervention” from the governor’s office and asked that the state’s federal funding from Superstorm Sandy be used to bury the lines. Mr. Cantwell said the governor’s office responded to his letter on Wednesday, two days prior to Governor Cuomo’s release of the FEMA agreement, stating they had received many letters from concerned residents and were taking the issue “very seriously.”

“I think the letter meets the parallel correspondence that the supervisor sent,” said Mr. Rickenbach. “We feel that the governor’s office should be aware of what’s happening out here.”

Similarly, State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. sent a letter to New York State Public Service Commissioner Diane Burman, asking for a dialogue regarding the issue in the hope of finding a compromise.

“We had no previous knowledge of this project, but apparently the town and the village did,” said Mr. Thiele, who worked closely with Southampton Town when LIPA attempted to put high-voltage utility poles on a nine-mile stretch in Water Mill.

“Eventually, we wound up working on something that allowed the lines to be buried and the cost to be split,” said Mr. Thiele. “PSEG didn’t make a similar offer. If you make that offer in Southampton, you should make that offer in East Hampton.”

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