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Exposed electric transmission line at Block Island beach causing concern

There is a controversy over a high voltage power line to and from Block Island that’s supposed to be buried.

But it’s not.

In fact, at low tide on Wednesday, it was just below the waterline at State Beach, which is also known as Crescent Beach and is the most popular on Block Island.

You can still see the yellow covering wrapped around the 37,500-volt National Grid powerline that runs the juice generated by the Deepwater Wind turbines through a buried junction box, to the mainland, and the electricity back again to island ratepayers.

“I don’t think the public should be able to walk over top of that or be in too close contact with it,” Doc Lewis, who lives on Block Island, said. “We’ve been assured that it safe and I’m sure that it is. However, would you want your children stepping on 40,000 volts?”

Two months ago, white buoys were put in place out there to warn boaters not to drop anchor in between.

NBC 10 News spoke with New Shoreham Town Manager Ed Roberge. A reporter asked if extra signage alerting people to stay away from the powerlines would help.

“That’s something that National Grid is evaluating right now in terms of we have communication panels that are at the beach house today, just explaining the issues regarding the cable issue, of a no anchor zone that you see out there, and trying to prevent something from happening that we wouldn’t want to happen,” Roberge said.

A Deepwater Wind spokesperson said the lines from the turbines to the island are fine, adding that National Grid lines at State Beach have brought out Grid workers to find a solution.

National Grid released a statement, noting that shifting sediment is the cause for the lines exposure, but added that they are “confident” it’s safe.

“We are aware of the recent reports that the sea2shore cable and its protective sleeving are visible, at times, at low tide on Crescent Beach. We share the public’s concern about this visibility, which has been caused by the significant amount of sediment that has been lost in the area in the past several months,” National Grid noted. “While we share the concern about public safety, we are confident that the cable itself is, as it always has been, safe even if not fully covered by sediment. The cable is built to deliver decades of service in extreme submarine conditions. It is very heavy and exceptionally well-protected and insulated.”

The statement went on to note that during “the past year, we have conducted monthly surveys of the sediment coverage of the cable, which have indicated a significant shifting of sediment and loss of sand on Crescent Beach. From what we understand, other parts of Block Island are also seeing a significant loss of sediment due to extreme weather.

As previous media reports have indicated, this fall we plan on installing additional sleeving over another section of cable to protect it from any potential damage from a stray anchor or other heavy object. Tomorrow we will be meeting with the Coastal Resources Management Council and Deepwater Wind to discuss the current situation and explore other options. We will keep the town and other officials updated accordingly.”