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May 14, 2019 2:26 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

PSEG Eyes Suffolk County Parkland For Montauk Substation

May 14, 2019 3:25 PM

Nodding to the pleadings of the Montauk community, PSEG Long Island announced this week that it plans to enter into negotiations with Suffolk County and New York State officials about placing its new Montauk electrical substation in a swath of county parkland at the edge of Hither Woods.

The utility company has identified an area of county parkland, just to the south of Navy Road and the Long Island Rail Road tracks, and west of North Shore Road, where the substation could be built.

However, the preliminary plan presented by PSEG on Tuesday would require about 3.5 acres of what is currently county parkland to be cleared for the substation and an access road connecting to North Shore Road, as well as to bury power supply lines that would connect to existing electrical transmission lines on Navy Road.

Using county parkland for such a purpose would require the county to “alienate” a substantial chunk of parkland—and doing so would need the approval of both the Suffolk County and New York State legislatures.

“Locating the substation on parkland creates some specific hurdles that are different than at other places we’ve been investigating,” PSEG Long Island’s director of communications, David Gaier, said on Tuesday. “We will need special legislation from the county and New York State. We are just starting the process with the county now.”

Mr. Gaier said that the decision to push forward with the complicated route to using county parkland came in response to the widely held sentiment among Montauk residents that putting the substation in the hills of Hither Woods would be the best solution.

At a public forum put on by PSEG last month to explain the various properties they were considering and the factors they weigh in their decision-making process, residents flooded the utility company with calls for putting the new substation at or near the former landfill off Montauk Highway west of the hamlet’s downtown area. That property sits more than 200 feet above sea level and is not bounded by any residential neighborhoods, residents said, which makes it preferable to other sites the company has been considering.

But the substation cannot be built on the landfill property itself for logistical reasons, PSEG has said, so a proposal originally suggested by Montauk residents who were opposing consideration of a Flamingo Road property has become the preferred alternative, Mr. Gaier said.

“At the April 2 workshop, and from the input we got from our website, we received feedback from more than 400 people, and the community made it clear that they prefer a north-of-the-landfill location,” he said.

The residents’ idea had focused on a land swap between the town and the county, with the town giving the county a commensurate amount of land to what is needed for the substation so that the total acreage of county parkland—the county owns nearly 900 acres in the Hither Hills region—is not reduced.

Mr. Gaier said that how the land exchange is handled will come out of upcoming negotiations with the county. He also acknowledged that because of the complicated nature of the proposal, PSEG is also still continuing to keep its options open at two Long Island Power Authority parcels on Industrial Road and Shore Road.

Engineers for the utility company made clear at last month’s public forum that simply putting the new substation in the same footprint of the existing one, or on the Shore Road property where they had long planned to build, were the easiest and most efficient from a logistics standpoint.

But the low-lying area between Fort Pond and Fort Pond Bay was roundly criticized by town planners and residents as being a dangerous place to put critical infrastructure in light of rising sea levels and the potential for destructive hurricanes that have over-washed the narrow isthmus before. Planners have said that placing the substation there would also violate the town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, a comprehensive planning document that requires other agencies to adhere to the town’s rules.

Mr. Gaier said that the company is still hoping to be able to say positively where it will build the new substation by mid-summer.

“We know the community is eager to have a final decision, and we are just as eager,” he said. “We are just starting the process with the county, so it will take some time, but we are still hoping to make a decision on schedule.”

Anybody who wishes to receive updates from PSEG-Long Island about the Montauk substation negotiations and decision-making process can send an email to externalaffairsli@PSEG.com and the company will email updates as they develop.

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