The Suffolk County Legislature on Wednesday unanimously passed a measure requesting the State Legislature to authorize it to relinquish rights to more than 100 acres of county parkland, some permanently, for the construction and operation of a wind-farm’s underground power cables.
The county home-rule resolution calling for the so-called alienation of the parkland – at Smith Point County Park, the Smith Point Marina and Southaven County Park – is the first step in a process to allow Denmark-based Orsted and its partner Eversource to connect its 924-megawatt Sunrise Wind project to the Long Island Power Authority grid by 2025.
Some of the property would be temporarily leased to the wind farm during construction of the land-based cable, while other portions would be permanently conveyed to Sunrise Wind under the alienation process, which requires a fair-market value assessment.
Suffolk’s measure, which the county legislature approved 17 to 0 during a special meeting Thursday, would allow Suffolk to “discontinue use” of certain parkland parcels and grant short- and long-term rights to Sunrise to build, maintain and operate underground conduits, joint bays and link boxes under the parkland. A Suffolk lawmaker said the agreement also would include small utility buildings on certain park parcels.
Bills in the State Senate and Assembly, which are expected to be voted on in the current session, contemplate temporary alienation of three parcels – 86 acres for use during construction and 15 additional acres that would be permanently alienated.
The resolution doesn’t explain why a permanent easement is needed for the project, including why it would run beyond Sunrise Wind’s 25-year power purchase agreement. Sunrise Wind, in a statement, said there will be “no restrictions placed on the property to residents who use it once construction is completed.” The company declined to provide any information about its potential payments for the land rights, saying it’s “not yet public.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, in a statement, called the legislative approval Thursday an “incremental step” step in the process of approving the plan, but not the last. “There will be other resolutions before the legislature to consider the agreements that the county will enter into with Sunrise Wind for the actual use of the property, which will be subject to public input.”
Suffolk Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), in an interview, said the legislature in the past has “just given this land to utilities for overhead power lines or whatever they need to service the public.”
“It’s a public benefit, it’s something new, it’s renewable energy,” McCaffrey said of the wind farm, with many of the benefits expected to be negotiated between Sunrise and the Town of Brookhaven. Either way, he said, “We are not looking for a windfall here.”
State and local lawmakers have been supportive of the Sunrise Wind project and cable, which will traverse 17.5 miles from the beach under Smith Point County Park, up William Floyd Parkway and the Long Island Expressway to a LIPA substation in Holbrook. The cable will bring power from wind arrays in the waters off the Massachusetts/Rhode Island coast.
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