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East Hampton wind farm hearing to be held Jan. 12

The East Hampton Town Board will accept public comments on the latest draft of its agreements to allow the cable from the South Fork Wind Farm to be placed under town roads at its Tuesday, Jan. 12 work session, which begins at 11 a.m.

The Host Community Agreement and a separate Easement Agreement allow South Fork Wind, LLC to place the transmission cable in the roadbed along about 4.1 miles of town roads from the landing site at Beach Lane in Wainscott to an electric substation on Cove Hollow Road in East Hampton, in exchange for $28.9 million in benefits to the town over the next 25 years.

The South Fork Wind Farm was originally proposed by Deepwater Wind, which has since been purchased by the Danish offshore wind company Ørsted, which is now pursuing the project in partnership with the New England electric transmission company Eversource.

The wind farm, just over 30 miles east of Montauk Point, will have 15 turbines capable of producing 136 megawatts of electricity.

Sunrise Wind, another project by Eversource and Ørsted just east of the South Fork Wind Farm, received approval from the New York State Energy Research Development Agency (NYSERDA) in 2019. Sunrise Wind is expected to be an 880 megawatt project, with a grid connection in Holbrook, and the developers are planning to have it online by 2024. Ørsted and Eversource submitted another proposal, dubbed Sunrise Wind 2, in a fall 2020 bid solicitation from the state. New York has not yet selected the awardees of that bid.

The South Fork Wind project, which is smaller and has been in the pipeline far longer than the Sunrise Wind projects, is currently under review by federal and state regulatory and environmental review agencies, and the developers expect it to be commissioned by the end of 2022. If the timeline is met, it would be the first offshore wind farm to provide power to New York State.

The East Hampton Town Board and Town Trustees have negotiated easements and a lease to allow the transmission cable to pass under the beach at the south end of Beach Lane in Wainscott, which is Town Trustees property, and under several town road rights-of-way to reach the Cove Hollow substation.

South Fork Wind will be performing site assessments and soil sampling using a Geoprobe rig for three weeks this winter, beginning as soon as Jan. 4, along the town right-of-way on Beach Lane, Wainscott Main Street, Wainscott Stone Road and Wainscott Northwest Road.

The work will take place on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and will not be done on weekends or holidays.

The easement agreement is conditioned upon the transmission cable being installed, maintained, repaired and decommissioned in accordance with requirements to protect and preserve natural and historical resources, and to ensure the public’s safety and quality of life during the placement and operation of the cable.

The community benefits package would include $500,000 up front after South Fork Wind and the town sign the contract for the easements, and another $500,000 after the company commences construction. Within six months of the project becoming operational, South Fork Wind will provide an $870,000 payment to the town, the first of 25 annual installments with a 2 percent escalator each year.

The agreement also calls for the wind farm developer to hire a liaison to facilitate communications with the East Hampton commercial fishing community “until the project ceases commercial operation,” and calls for the turbine maintenance contractor to establish a wind farm support facility and transfer vessel base in Montauk, if a suitable location and permits for a facility can be obtained.

South Fork Wind will also be required to pay town property taxes on its onshore infrastructure, which is expected to amount to approximately an additional $4 million over the life of the project.

The current community benefits package is a big jump from a package of about $8.5 million initially offered to the town in 2017, which did not include the large annual installment payments.

The Jan. 12 public hearing can be viewed live on Channel 22 or at ltveh.org. Members of the public who wish to speak can call 351.888.6331 to be placed in the queue of speakers.

After hearing public comment on Jan. 12, the town board is slated to vote on a formal resolution authorizing the town to sign the agreement.

The proposal has not been without controversy, especially among residents of Wainscott, and East Hampton voters could force a public referendum on the resolution if they gather enough signatures.

The Concerned Citizens of Montauk will also hold a Zoom webinar on “Renewable Energy and the South Fork Wind Farm” on Thursday, Jan. 14 from 4 to 5 p.m. CCOM President Laura Tooman, Renewable Energy Long Island Executive Director Gordian Raacke and New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe will discuss East Hampton’s ambitious sustainable energy goals and the South Fork Wind Farm. Sign up online at preservemontauk.org/publications/webinars.