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Jun 25, 2019 12:44 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

PSEG Drops Plans For Parkland Substation In Montauk

Jun 25, 2019 2:04 PM

After more than 10 months of wrangling over alternatives, PSEG-Long Island has decided to seek to build its new substation in Montauk at the site it had originally proposed on Shore Road.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said on Tuesday that PSEG informed the town this week that it would be abandoning consideration of its latest alternative—building the substation in Suffolk County parkland in Hither Woods—after objections from trails groups and environmentalists, and would be focusing again on the Shore Road property that the Long Island Power Authority has owned since the 1970s, designated for use as a future substation site.

Mr. Van Scoyoc, who had spurred the utility to look for alternatives to the Shore Road site last year, said he now sees the area as the most suitable location for the substation because of its industrial surroundings.

“After an exhaustive and open process, I think we’ve come to the realization that the industrial district on Shore Road is the best alternative at this point,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said on Tuesday. “It will be welcome news to hikers on the Paumanok Path and others concerned about the alienation of parklands in that area.”

As part of the new plan for using the Shore Road property, PSEG also will pay to redesign and raise the intersection of Shore Road, North Shore Road and Industrial Road, which floods frequently after rainfall.

The 2.5-acre Shore Road property is adjacent to the site where a private company built an industrial battery storage facility, at LIPA’s behest, last year to warehouse power from the new substation for times of peak demand.

It was during debate over the battery storage facility’s approval that town officials renewed their lobbying of PSEG to reconsider building the substation on the Shore Road property, because it lies in a low area between Fort Pond Bay and Fort Pond that many consider vulnerable to being overwashed in a hurricane—as is believed to have happened in 1938.

In September 2018, the utility company, which contracts with LIPA to run Long Island’s power grid, announced that it was officially shelving its plans for a new substation in Montauk for three years to look at alternative sites. The Shore Road substation was originally supposed to be built last summer and come online last fall.

The utility considered a half dozen locations around the hamlet and drew up rough plans for a substation on a hillside property off Flamingo Road as a possible alternative location. But the proposal drew a deluge of outrage from residents, and, in April, engineers from PSEG said that the property was at the bottom of their list of most viable possibilities.

Last month, PSEG said it was going to consider appealing to Suffolk County to abandon about 5 acres of parkland off the end of North Shore Road, which would get it away from residential areas and onto higher ground. But that idea drew objections from the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society and other environmentalists, because the site chosen lay immediately alongside the Paumanok Path hiking trail and in an area of old-growth woodlands.

Mr. Van Scoyoc said that the effort the company put into trying to find another site was laudable and has signaled a turn-around for its formerly standoffish approach to dealing with local communities’ concerns or objections to their plans for utility infrastructure projects.

“They have really done a 180-degree about-face from when they first came to town and put high-tension wires through residential neighborhoods and across farmlands,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. “Now they’ve gone to a process of public engagement and interacting with the community.”

The supervisor noted that the company has improved the vegetative screening at its Amagansett substation site, which had been the subject of a lawsuit between the town and PSEG.

He said that the exhaustion of viable alternatives that PSEG has logged also would probably meet the requirements of the town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, which recommends against placing critical infrastructure in low-lying areas.

While cajoling from public officials may have had an effect, PSEG officials acknowledged at a forum in April that the Shore Road site’s only problematic hurdle in their eyes—since they say it will be high enough to withstand severe storms—was the restrictions of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan that gives rare local authority over critical infrastructure projects.

Engineers for PSEG had said at the forum that their preferred alternative to using the Shore Road site was to simply put the new substation equipment on the existing substation site on nearby Industrial Road. The current substation sits on a man-made peninsula jutting out into Fort Pond, which routinely floods after periods of heavy rain. The engineers said they would mount the new equipment in steel containers on 10-to-12-foot-high stanchions to protect it against high waters.

Mr. Van Scoyoc said that the company has agreed to work with the town to design an appropriate recreational use for the existing substation site once it has been cleared of equipment.

“It would make a great kayak launch, if you ask me,” he said.

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