Officials for Deepwater Wind told the East Hampton Town Board this week that they will need approvals from the town for the use of Beach Lane in Wainscott as the project’s power cable landing site before they begin their most extensive scientific surveys and studies of the project’s potential impacts.
Deepwater Vice President Clint Plummer said that designing studies of the environment surrounding each component of the planned 15-turbine South Fork Wind Farm, which the company hopes to begin constructing in 2020, cannot begin until the application for the project is officially filed with the federal agencies that will review it. And that application will require that the company already have approvals in place for the use of any municipally owned land that would be used as part of the project.
“To be able to determine the exact scopes of work that need to be done, we have to submit applications,” Mr. Plummer said. “But we can’t submit those applications … unless we have consent from this board that we would be able to use that land if we got those approvals.”
Mr. Plummer also noted that the company has said it prefers to use Beach Lane to minimize disruptions in burying the power cables once they are on land, but that the company could turn to a state-owned site in Napeague if the town’s consideration of the landing site would delay the federal applications too long.
The revelation that the town application was tied to a deadline in the company’s project schedule, and not the board’s satisfaction that the project is an advisable one, rubbed at least one member of the Town Board the wrong way.
“That sounds a bit like arm twisting,” Councilman Jeffrey Bragman said. “Are you saying you can’t work with the town if we say … we want [State Environmental Quality Review Act] review?”
Deepwater officials said they plan to submit their official permit application for the project in March of this year. The company filed an application to the town for the use of Beach Lane parking lot and town roadways in December, but expects that the most in-depth analysis of the impacts of the work, including running the cable through Wainscott to the Buell Lane power station, would be conducted at the federal and state level.
“Because of that, I don’t know how we would execute if we had to do separate reviews,” Mr. Plummer said. “What we are seeking is a real estate permit. And it’s conditioned upon all the other federal and state approvals.”
Mr. Bragman said that the town could limit its review somewhat for expediency but said he still felt the town must conduct a thorough review of the potential impacts of bringing the power cable ashore in Wainscott.
Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said he was more confident that the diligence of the SEQRA process would still be borne out in the broader review process. Mr. Bragman remained reticent.
“I’m not crazy about handing off the review to a federal agency … when we haven’t looked at the issues that are involved with that cable,” said Mr. Bragman, a land use attorney who has made his name as an opponent of development projects. “I just want to make sure the town doesn’t wave you through without taking a deep look.”
His concerns seemed compounded when Mr. Plummer acknowledged that drilling the underground-undersea conduit through which the power cable would be brought ashore would involve a liquid “engineered solution” to ease the drill’s progress through the ground.
Mr. Plummer said the exact make-up of the drilling fluid is not yet known since it will be specifically formulated to work with the makeup of the soils through which the drill will penetrate as it runs from Beach Lane into the Atlantic sea floor.
“We can provide preliminary info now,” Mr. Plummer said, “but the final [formula] has to be based on specific science.”
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