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Jan 27, 2017 5:25 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

PSEG Says FEMA Money Won't Pay For Burying Electric Lines Along Long Beach As Part Of North Haven Work

Chris Hahn, the director of external affairs for PSEG, spoke at a public hearing in North Haven on Friday, to discuss plans of hardening the electric grid. BY GREG WEHNER
Jan 31, 2017 3:30 PM

PSEG Long Island officials stood their ground at a public hearing in North Haven on Friday, saying that federal money given to the state to protect the electric grid against future storms can only go toward the replacement and maintenance of aboveground lines and poles—not to bury lines for aesthetic reasons.

The hearing was attended by nearly 50 residents from the North Haven and Sag Harbor area, as well as State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. Some of those in attendance spoke in favor of the burial of lines, while others voiced concerns about the cost of the project, the chemicals used to treat the utility poles and the clearing of trees.

Christopher Hahn, the director of external affairs for PSEG, said the project, which is being completed across all of Long Island, is expected to finish up in 2019, but this particular stretch in the area of North Haven Village is slated to be finished by May.

The work in North Haven includes replacing wiring and poles, as well switching equipment, on Noyac-Long Beach Road, just south of Harbor Drive, and on Ferry Road, south of Fahys Road. It includes work inside and just south of the village’s borders.

The upgrades currently call for contractors to install new and more durable wooden utility poles that feature stronger bases. The new poles will be the same height above ground as the current poles, ranging from 34 to 39 feet and being driven deeper into the ground, and the T-shape at the top will be more narrow than the old poles. The power company does not plan to install large metal poles, like those seen in areas like Patchogue.

Mr. Hahn said after Superstorm Sandy, Senator Chuck Schumer and Governor Andrew Cuomo asked Congress for money to harden the grid, and received $1.5 billion to assist with the efforts. Half of the money, Mr. Hahn said, was used to make immediate repairs, while the other $750 million was designated to harden the circuits.

Three hundred of the poorest-performing circuits on Long Island were selected by PSEG, and the North Haven line was among them. In total, Mr. Hahn said, PSEG Long Island has 1,000 miles of power grid to upgrade. That equates to a cost of $750,000 per mile.

North Haven Village Mayor Jeff Sander said he wanted to see the lines buried at Long Beach, a 1.4-mile sandy strip with water on both sides of the road leading up to North Haven, just south of the village line.

Mr. Hahn said the cost of burying the lines is much higher: approximately $6 million to $8 million for Long Beach alone. He also said the process of troubleshooting and repairing underground cable is also more difficult and time-consuming compared to aboveground lines.

Mr. Sander, as well as Mr. Schneiderman, asked if there was a way for PSEG to delay the start date of the upgrades to closer to 2019, to allow the village time to figure out a way to pay for the burial of the lines. PSEG officials did not rule it out entirely, but they said it would be difficult because the projects across the island are already planned through 2019.

The mayor also said he would like to find a way to help reduce the cost of burying the lines—perhaps by using the FEMA money set aside for the above-ground upgrades. But Mr. Hahn all but nixed the idea: “FEMA is really strict,” he said, saying asking the feds to change directions on the funding would be akin to turning around a big ship. But he did encourage them to try.

PSEG officials were not at the meeting to try to force the project on anyone. In fact, they said if the village and town prefer to pass on the project, they can, and PSEG will still continue to service the lines that are in place now.

If PSEG were to complete the FEMA project as planned, Mr. Hahn said, it would not hinder efforts to bury the lines at a later date, if the money could be found. In fact, he even said that PSEG would support the effort.

Mr. Sander said he and the board need to find out if there is any value to requesting a delay, noting that they all want to improve the service one way or another. He also said the board will have come up with actual costs to go back to the public in the next few weeks.

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Planning???
By knitter (1621), Southampton on Jan 28, 17 7:57 AM
If the lines are buried and require less repair, then there goes the OT.
By Mouthampton (417), Southampton on Jan 29, 17 1:39 AM
Its really not aesthetic, its common sense. Those poles are completely exposed to the wind. Your charging us the highest rates in the nation and now have subsidized work from the feds, the least you could do is use some common sense. Long Beach is a big part of the feeding system if it goes down, how much will that cost when the meters stop spinning?
By North Sea Citizen (520), North Sea on Jan 29, 17 8:10 AM
PSE&G should come up with a budget to bury the lines then have the Supervisor agree to a twenty year assessment for all homeowners that don't currently pay an assessment for the lines burried in Water Mill. or..The residents can vote on the proposal to bury the lines.
By auntof9 (135), Southampton on Jan 29, 17 11:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
I sometimes wonder why it is that the mayor appears to support many policies that would benefit the real estate industry. A conflict of interest given that he has close family in the business?
By Just sitting on the taffrail (32), Southampton on Jan 29, 17 2:37 PM
PSEG is in the wrong, they should support burying power lines. Wouldn't it be nice if we could get a better power company to serve the south fork
By kuali (32), southampton on Feb 2, 17 11:27 AM
How come Suffolk County Water Authority, Cablevision, Optimum and National Grid (Gas) all manage to route their various utility lines underground without complaint, but PSEG insists on ripping magnificent trees into bizarre shapes every Spring ?
It's beyond me that the many environmentalists on the South Fork don't get on their case.
By kenmotor (3), Southampton on Feb 2, 17 1:57 PM