The Town Trustees in East Hampton will continue to debate the potential landing of a wind farm cable in Wainscott next week, as Deepwater Wind, the offshore wind company proposing the South Fork Wind Farm roughly 30 miles off the coast of Montauk, announced last week it will begin a seafloor survey of its leased sea bottom lands off Montauk and off the coast of Rhode Island to assist with the design and construction of proposed wind farms in both locations.
The Trustees are expected to hold an executive session during a meeting next Monday to discuss hiring special counsel to represent the body in negotiations over a community benefits package being floated by Deepwater Wind in connection to a request by the firm to land the South Fork Wind Farm power cable off Beach Lane in Wainscott. In order to do that, Deepwater Wind needs to secure easements from both the East Hampton Town Board and East Hampton Town Trustees.
In July, the East Hampton Town Board voted, 3-2, to hire its own counsel to draft an agreement to grant Deepwater Wind easement to run its cable from the beach under local streets to an existing LIPA substation off Cove Hollow Road. Members who voted in favor of the resolution also memorialized their support for the project in its resolution. Councilmembers Jeffrey Bragman and David Lys voted against the measure.
According to Trustee Clerk Francis Bock, the trustees, who manage wetlands, waterways and beaches in the town, are “pretty split” on whether to allow Deepwater Wind access to Beach Lane. A committee, made up of trustees Rick Drew, John Aldred, Susan McGraw Keber and James Grimes, has been formed to make a recommendation to the body on the hiring of outside counsel to represent the board in the state and federal review of the 15-turbine project. Mr. Bock said that counsel, if trustees do come to accord, would also be used to draft any agreement between trustees and Deepwater Wind specific to the benefits package.
Deepwater Wind has a contract with LIPA to supply power from the wind farm from 2022 to 2042. While it already has secured a lease for the sea floor from Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), it will have to earn permits from that agency, the Public Service Commission and other state and federal agencies before it can move forward with construction. While town agencies can petition to be a part of that process – both the town board and town trustees have said they will do just that – the cable access landing in Wainscott is the only formal agreement or easement Deepwater Wind needs from local officials as it seeks approval from the town.
It has so far offered upwards of $8 million in community benefits as a carrot to the town and constituents in return to the right to land its cable in Wainscott. On Wednesday, Mr. Bock said an additional offer has been presented. While not public and still under negotiation, Mr. Bock said the latest offer “addressed some of the concerns we have raised” and did include more money, although not “extravagantly so.”
In the meantime, Deepwater Wind officials announced that this week it will embark on an “intensive phase of work” on both the Montauk-based South Fork Wind Farm and the Rhode Island-based Revolution Wind projects. A multi-million-dollar offshore research effort, using a survey boat and team of experts, the firm will deploy at 132-foot liftboat that will spend five months completing offshore surveys of the federal lease sites in both locations to “inform the design and locations of the turbines at the South Fork Wind Farm and Revolution Wind,” according to a press release issued late last week. A large-scale geophysical survey of the site will be completed, according to the firm, and the engineering firm, GZA, based out of Providence, R.I., will conduct a geotechnical analysis of the seafloor for both lease sites.
“A full suite of high-tech survey technology will be used in the geotechnical and geophysical surveys, including sonar, magnetometers and tools to measure the depth and slope of the seafloor,” reads the press release. “Marine biologists aboard will use monitoring systems and thermal imaging cameras to alert the team of any marine mammals in the area.”
“We’re embarking on this major scientific endeavor so we can better understand the seafloor where we’ll build these next windfarms,” said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski in the release. “When we’re done, we’ll know more about this part of the ocean than ever before. Local laborers, mariners and scientists will help us get the job done.”