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No town payment planned for Deepwater cable

NARRAGANSETT – The town will not be compensated for Deepwater Wind’s planned transmission cable, now proposed to land at Scarborough State Beach.

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski has confirmed the company now proposes to land the cable at Scarborough. The cable will connect Block Island to the mainland electric grid. The proposed cable would make landfall north of Scarborough North, off Ocean Road, between the area where lifeguards patrol the beach and Black Point, and run underground through Burnside Avenue, Route 108 and Route 1, where it will connect to a switchyard at a state Department of Transportation utility lot near the Dillon Rotary. Deepwater’s revised route will avoid all town-owned property, adhering to the Town Council’s unanimous vote denying the company construction easements.

Deepwater had offered the town $2.25 million for an easement to land the cable at Narragansett Town Beach and run it through the Pier to a switchyard near Sprague Park.

After construction, Grybowski said, Deepwater will fund a “facelift” for Scarborough State Beach, which will include new plantings and repairs to pathways for the public recreational areas, according to a press release issued by the company.

“We heard the town’s concerns and we believe that this proposal addresses the major concerns,” Grybowski said during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “It will be buried; we’re staying off Town Beach; everything will be done in the off-season; and the switchyard is not near any facility the public would use.”

Grybowski said traffic impacts will be limited during construction because it will take place during the off-season, and also because Burnside Avenue and Route 108 are four-lane roads.

“You don’t have to shut down the whole road. We’ll be working in one-and-a-half to two lanes for a short stretch of a couple hundred of feet at a time,” Grybowski said.

The company plans to construct a five turbine demonstration-scale wind farm off the coast of Block Island that will fully meet New Shoreham’s electric needs with 10 percent of the power generated. The remaining energy will be transported to the mainland grid as part of a purchasing agreement between Deepwater and National Grid.

Councilman Matthew Mannix, the council’s most outspoken opponent of the project, said the argument against Deepwater Wind must continue at the state level.

“The residents have made it very clear they do not want this cable landing on our shores, and I think it’s very important for the townspeople and Town Council to step up and oppose the landing of this cable in any part of the town,” Mannix said in an interview.

Deepwater’s latest proposal came Sunday, after an agenda for Tuesday’s State Properties Committee meeting was posted to the Secretary of State’s website. The agenda included an item to approve an easement with Narragansett Electric Company for the landing of the line. (Narragansett Electric now does business as National Grid.) The meeting was subsequently postponed until Thursday and the item was later pulled from the agenda.

The agenda item was included after state Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit sent an Aug. 30 correspondence to State Properties Committee Chairman Ronald Renaud requesting the committee approve the easement. Her memo did not reference Deepwater Wind.

Grybowski said contrary to the posting, which cites Narragansett Electric as the involved party, Deepwater Wind will require the easement, but will eventually transfer ownership of the line to National Grid.

Renaud confirmed DEM pulled that agenda item from Thursday’s meeting. Grybowski said the item’s inclusion was premature because Deepwater and the state are negotiating the terms of an agreement about the Scarborough landing.

“The important thing for us is that negotiations are not done; there’s no agreement in place,” Grybowski said. “We are in discussion about terms – the same kinds of things we talked about with the town – not just compensation but when the work will get done.”

Once an agreement is in place, Deepwater will send a revised environmental report to state and federal permitting agencies for vetting and public comment, Grybowski said.

Before the agenda item was pulled, members of Deepwater Resistance voiced their frustration with the item’s lack of public notice and the absence of reference to Deepwater Wind.

“The notice that was sent out with respect to the State Properties Committee – entertaining a proposal to now place the cable on the abutting coastline of Ocean Road is not in keeping with the concept of transparency in government,” said former Attorney General James O’Neil in a phone interview. O’Neil has been active in opposition to the wind project. “Nowhere do they indicate that the proposed Ocean Road cable is to benefit the Deepwater Wind corporation. The public worked long and hard to have their voice heard, and now deserve the same opportunity to do that at the state level,” he said.

Republican Committee Chairwoman Meg Rogers echoed O’Neil’s concerns.

“Sadly, without any notice to the people who will be most impacted – it flies in the face of what we all want, which is good, clean, transparent governance,” Rogers said.

Rogers and members of Deepwater Resistance sent a letter to state and local officials requesting the State Properties Committee continue the agenda item to a later date so interested parties can learn about the proposal and provide input.

“I am absolutely dismayed that the State Properties Committee is entertaining such a proposal forwarded by the [state] Department of Environmental Management under the guise that National Grid is the sole party with an interest in the outcome of the Committee’s decision,” Rogers wrote. “Only through the vigilance of certain citizens has it become clear that Deepwater Wind is again seeking to benefit from a cable installation on the shores of our community.”