The East Hampton Town Board voted 4 to 1 to extend a license agreement to Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind and Eversource Energy on Tuesday, allowing the companies to conduct survey work related to the transmission cable connecting their proposed South Fork Wind Farm to a Long Island Power Authority substation in East Hampton.
The work involves a test boring at the southern end of Beach Lane in Wainscott, where the developers have identified the ocean beach as the preferred site to land the cable, to determine whether subsurface conditions are suitable for the cable’s installation. The companies plan to bury the cable approximately 1,500 feet offshore and under the beach using a technique known as horizontal directional drilling.
The survey work is to be conducted as soon as possible and completed no later than June 30. It is to be limited to two consecutive days between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and only between Mondays and Thursdays.
The board had voted to authorize more extensive survey work in March, setting an April 30 deadline for its completion, but that work was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Construction of the 15-turbine installation itself, which the companies have renamed South Fork Wind and which was initially planned to be operational late in 2022, will “very likely be delayed due to federal permitting approvals and Covid-19,” Henrik Poulsen, Orsted”s chief executive officer, said in April.
Tuesday’s vote followed a discussion during the board’s meeting via videoconference. In response to a caller, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said this month is an appropriate time to conduct the work given the town’s efforts to limit crowds. The public will have full access to the beach during the work, he said.
Many residents of Wainscott oppose the cable landing in their hamlet, and have organized to agitate for another location. Orsted, which acquired Deepwater Wind, a Rhode Island company that initially proposed the wind farm, and Eversource, which it took on as a partner in the South Fork Wind Farm and other proposed installations, identified state-owned land at Hither Hills in Montauk as a potential alternative site. Burying the cable from there to the LIPA substation would make for a considerably longer subterranean path, requiring lengthier and more disruptive construction.
Councilman Jeff Bragman cast the dissenting vote. The resolution, he said, “reflects Deepwater Wind’s decision that Beach Lane is the route. It’s pretty clear this represents a decision that this is where they intend to have the connection for the undersea cable.” By authorizing the survey work, he said, the board “is demonstrating that it is in agreement with Deepwater Wind in its selection of Beach Lane.”
Mr. Van Scoyoc disagreed. “Until we have all the information we could possibly get, I don’t think we can make an informed decision,” he said. “This is part of making an informed decision.” He also said most of the town’s residents recognize that the path from Beach Lane to the substation is “the least disruptive, both to humans and the environment,” and that “the shortest route is in fact Beach Lane. We’re still open to looking at alternatives, and again, based on the results of the study of their preferred site, ultimately we may not choose to entertain Beach Lane. But at this point, the volumes of data would lead one to believe this is the most likely location.”
Meaghan Wims, an Orsted spokeswoman, said in an email yesterday that the companies will conduct further work this month, including one day of offshore surveying in waters approximately 1.4 miles off the coast of Wainscott, along the proposed transmission cable route and outside the town’s jurisdiction. That could happen as early as Saturday.
Additional land surveys and geotechnical assessments at the substation, which is privately owned, are to happen over a period of approximately two weeks this month. Similar work along the Long Island Rail Road corridor between Wainscott Northwest Road and Cove Hollow Road, involving the collection of 10 soil borings, is anticipated to begin late this month and continue for about two weeks on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Transit on the railroad will not be affected, Ms. Wims said.
Additional information and updates on the planned surveys will be posted at southforkwind.com/resources-and-faqs.
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