Deepwater Wind announced on Tuesday, Sept. 24, that it plans to install its electric transmission cable at Scarborough State Beach, located in Narragansett, R.I.
Deepwater had originally planned to install the cable at Narragansett Town Beach, but withdrew those plans in August due to opposition from residents and the Narragansett Town Council. Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski said that the company started seriously looking at the Scarborough Beach option around this same time.
Deepwater is now negotiating with the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to secure easements to bury the cable at Scarborough Beach, which is state property. The cable will then run underground and connect with National Grid’s electric substation in Wakefield, R.I.
Both easements must be approved by the State Properties Committee, according to Grybowski.
This latest announcement has renewed opposition to the five-turbine wind farm that is proposed off the coast of Block Island.
Some who are opposed to the wind farm have questioned the way this latest announcement came about.
The state properties committee had an agenda item for its Sept. 24 meeting – which was then postponed until Sept. 26 – that read: “Department of Environmental Management – a request for approval of and signatures on an Easement Agreement with Narragansett Electric Company over property located on Plat S, Lots 136 and 123 on Ocean Road in the Town of Narragansett.” This agenda was posted on Sunday, Sept. 23, at 9:15 a.m.
Narragansett resident James O’Neill, the former state attorney general, sent a letter opposing Deepwater’s proposal to the Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. “I was alarmed that the cable proposal had been resurrected. I am absolutely dismayed that the State Properties Committee is entertaining such a proposal forwarded by the 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,” said O’Neill in his Sept. 25 letter.
In his letter to Kilmartin, O’Neill said this property committee agenda item “should have properly identified all parties of interest.” The agenda item did not list Deepwater Wind, but instead listed Narragansett Electric (which is owned by National Grid).
“I am sure you will agree that to not identify all parties of interest in any matter coming before a governing authority runs contrary to preserving the integrity of government and is a breach of public trust,” said O’Neill in his letter. “Transparency in government is essential.”
Grybowski told The Block Island Times he does not know why the agenda item was worded the way it was. He said he does not compile the agenda for the State Properties Commission, and does not control the information that passed between the commission and the DEM.
The agenda item was later removed from the Sept. 26 meeting, according to Grybowski. He said the “agenda item has been pulled because the documents for it are not ready yet.” He said Deepwater is still in the “negotiating stage” with the state.
“I know folks will try to create anything they can to oppose this project,” said Grybowski. “But the reality is, we have to go to the State Properties Commission and there’s going to be public hearings on this. People can see whatever ghosts they want to see. We all know who’s going to oppose it – it doesn’t matter how they oppose it.”
One group in opposition to the project, Deepwater Resistance, is waiting on more information about the cable proposal.
“We’re waiting, really, for Deepwater Wind to make a reasonably serious attempt to reach out to the public and to present detailed plans on paper showing the path they intend to follow,” said Deepwater Resistance chairman Robert Shields, who is a Narragansett resident. “And to provide a public comment period after they release these plans.”
Shields said the group intends to survey the residents living near the cable route.
The proposed cable plan
The transmission cable would connect Deepwater’s proposed five-turbine offshore wind farm, which would be built off Block Island, with the mainland power grid.
“We spent a lot of time internally in August with our team exploring whether or not the Scarborough option works,” Grybowski said. “We put a survey vessel in the water to explore the route… we confirmed from an environmental and engineering perspective that there is a way to get the cable through that area.”
Grybowski said the location was selected because Narragansett is the shortest distance from Block Island, and because beachfront is the best spot for the cable. “There are only a handful of places that you can look at that you can bring a cable ashore,” said Grybowski. “Very quickly, you can look at all of the viable options.”
A press release issued by Deepwater describes the new cable route: “The cable will be buried about 6 feet under the ocean floor throughout its 18-mile underwater route from the waters off Block Island to its landfall at Scarborough State Beach. From the beach area, the cable will remain buried, beneath state roads, and eventually connect with National Grid’s existing electric substation in Wakefield.”
According to Grybowski, once the cable makes landfall at Scarborough, it will travel about four miles underground to the substation. The entire cable route will be underground, with no overhead cables, according to Deepwater’s press release.
Grybowski noted that Deepwater’s new proposal addresses several major concerns previously made by Narragansett residents.
“We moved the route to be as unobtrusive as possible,” he said. For example, the location where the cable would make landfall has a large storm drain on it, which is not in a recreational area.
“I think that we tried to go very far to address the concerns that the town raised,” said Grybowski.
O’Neill disagreed with Grybowski in his letter to General Kilmartin. “The voices of the people were heard loud and clear. Narragansett does not want Deepwater Wind’s cable intruding upon its fragile coastline,” said O’Neill. “The area proposed for the installation of the cable is, as I understand it, in the vicinity of Black Point, one of DEM’s coastal park areas, which is truly a jewel.”
According to Deepwater’s press release, after construction, “the project will pay for a major ‘facelift’ for Scarborough Beach, including new plantings, repairs to pathways, and a general sprucing up. Improvements will be made not only for the small cable installation area, but also for the much larger public recreational areas.”
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