The South Fork commercial fishing industry remains opposed to Deepwater Wind’s proposed offshore wind farm, and now several hundred Wainscott residents have opened another hostile front, this one specific to the Rhode Island company’s preferred cable-landing site, the ocean beach at the end of Beach Lane in their hamlet.
On Monday, a group calling itself Save Beach Lane submitted a petition with 341 signatures to the East Hampton Town Board and the town trustees, taking issue with the landing beneath the beach, which may be within trustee jurisdiction. Deepwater Wind submitted an application to the New York State Public Service Commission on Sept. 14 for the portion of the transmission cable that would lie in state waters and underground.
“We demand that East Hampton not disturb Beach Lane with its planned wind landing site and select one of the other multiple viable alternative options,” the petition says. The beach “is already prone to erosion” and “will be forever altered by a for-profit (hedge fund-owned) company,” it adds. The D.E. Shaw group, an investment and technology development firm, is Deepwater Wind’s principal owner.
The signers also assert that Wainscott “is already shouldering a disproportionate set of burdens for our broader community,” citing airport-related noise and contamination detected in many of the hamlet’s private wells.
By a 3-to-2 vote, the town board agreed in July to support the granting of an access and utility easement allowing Deepwater Wind to route the transmission cable from the proposed 15-turbine wind farm to the road end at Beach Lane. From there, it would be buried on a path to a Long Island Power Authority substation near Cove Hollow Road in East Hampton.
The trustees have been more hesitant, making no commitment, to date, to a land-use agreement. Both governing bodies have retained special counsel to advise their own lawyers and guide them through the P.S.C.’s Article VII review process, which covers applications to construct and operate a major electric-transmission facility.
Should Deepwater Wind ultimately be allowed to lay the cable along its preferred route, offering the shortest path to the substation, it has agreed to fund an $8.45-million community benefits package for sustainability programs and infrastructure improvements. If it is denied an easement to land the cable at Wainscott and turns to an alternative site – probably state-owned land at Hither Hills – company officials say that offer will be withdrawn.
At the trustees’ meeting Monday, Pamela Mahoney of Wainscott read the petition into the record and told the trustees that the hamlet’s citizens advisory committee supports it, although one member, Frank Dalene, does not. The large number of signatures was obtained in just a few weeks, she noted.
Alexander Edlich, an organizer of the petition, wrote to Kathleen Burgess, the P.S.C.’s secretary, that “a for-profit company installing power cables will forever alter our sole, undivided community beach. . . . Many alternative and more reasonable landing sites exist other than Beach Lane. Nearly all those already-identified alternative sites would have less impact than on a heavily used and popular public beach.”
Another comment made to the state commission was more direct. “I vehemently oppose this project,” Franziska Klebe posted Tuesday on the State Department of Public Service website, “and will vote against any official who supports it.”
But Mr. Dalene, a former chairman of the town’s energy sustainability advisory committee, is a vocal supporter of the wind farm. The citizens advisory committee “was in full support of Deepwater Wind until it was announced that the cable was coming down Beach Lane,” he said. “I view it as pure nimbyism.”
“I’ve been dispelling a lot of fake news,” Mr. Dalene said, for which he blamed the wind farm’s opponents. “A lot of it is fear-mongering – scare tactics, fake news, and nimbyism.”
A letter from Save Beach Lane to the town board dated Friday said that “the same type of cable with a similar installation executed by the same company two years ago became exposed in Block Island last month.” The Block Island Times reported on Aug. 17 that about 10 feet of the cable connecting the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm to the island had become exposed in shallow water. In remarks to that newspaper, Jeffrey Grybowski, Deepwater Wind’s chief executive officer, cited “more sand movement than had been anticipated.”
“This happened after a particularly aggressive storm that resulted in some visibly noticeable changes to the contours of the beach itself,” Clint Plummer, Deepwater Wind’s vice president of development, said earlier this month. In an email on Tuesday, he said that the cable has been fully covered since mid-August, when Deepwater Wind applied additional sand.
Mr. Plummer also maintained that the proposed South Fork Wind Farm and its cable route have earned “overwhelming support from Town of East Hampton residents, officials, and local environmental organizations. The long public review of this project has clearly demonstrated that the Wainscott route is the best option for the transmission cable because it will have the least impact to the town as a whole.”
“The beach will not be impacted, and public access to the beach will be maintained throughout construction; any claims to the contrary in this petition are simply false,” he continued. In fact, he said, “the South Fork Wind Farm cable will be installed beneath Wainscott Beach using a different method than that at the Block Island Wind Farm. This will allow the cable to be set much deeper under the beach and nearshore area, ensuring that it’s protected from erosion over the life of the project.”
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