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Apr 2, 2019 4:19 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Montauk Residents Pore Over PSEG Options For New Substation

PSEG Long Island engineer Manny Lilimpakis said that the utility would be able to safely build a new substation on either Shore Road or Industrial Road that would be able to withstand storm flooding.   MICHAEL WRIGHT
Apr 5, 2019 4:35 PM

UPDATE: Wednesday 4 p.m.

Montauk residents flooded into the PSEG-Long Island showcase of its ongoing search for the site of its next substation in Montauk on Tuesday evening and many seemed to leave with a decidedly positive impression of the effort the utility company is putting into its process.

PSEG officials said that the crowd had trickled in throughout the day until just before 6 p.m. when more than 100 residents, wearing pink buttons with the image of Flamingo slashed out on them, flooded in and deluged the awaiting PSEG staff with questions.

"I think people appreciated it a lot, they made a real effort to show how what they are thinking and how they go about things," said Shaun de Jesus, who has spearheaded the community opposition to the use of the Flamingo Avenue property of the sprawling presentation PSEG had set up in the Montauk Playhouse gymnasium.

He also said he thinks that the community is going to put its most wholehearted support behind a still nascent idea for a land swamp between the town and the county that would allow the new substation to be built on county parkland somewhere between the former landfill and the railroad tracks.

"I think there's a lot of traction around getting it north of the landfill," Mr. de Jesus said.

One of the options that PSEG had laid out in its presentation included a parcel immeditely adjacent to the northern boundary of the former landfill. But the engineers had noted that using the parcel would require clearing about 5 acres of land in total for the substation to be sited there because two acres would be needed for the the actual substation property and the rest as right-of-way for the power lines from the station to run downhill to where the existing power transmission lines run alongside the Long Island Rail Road tracks. The swapping of land with the county and getting dedicated parkland freed up for an industrial use would also be a Herculean chore, PSEG has said.

"We are not saying we can't do it, or that we won't do it," PSEG spokesman David Gaier said of the land swap. "But there's a lot to do there."

There were also a fair number of people at the presentation on Friday who said that leaving the substation where it is, or building it on the Shore Road property that PSEG had long planned to use, seemed like the obvious choices.

"I just think it's the most practical spot, it's there already," Donna Bennett, who lives near the Flamingo Road property, said of the Shore Road site. "LIPA already owns it, the batteries are right there. I mean, hello, it's called Industrial Road."

It was PSEG's plans to use the Shore Road site, which LIPA's predecessor LiLCO purchased in the 1970s to use fora future substation, that sparked the swirling debate about location. The utility, which has a history of paying little mind to community criticism of its projects, held off on constructing the new substation that was intended to open last year after criticism from East Hampton Town planners, elected officials and residents over placing such critical infrastructure on a low lying isthumus between two bodies of water with a history of being over-washed during a hurricane.

Mr. Gaier said that leaving the substation at the current Industrial Road property, which sits even lower than the Shore Road site, would not encounter the roadblock of the town's Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan because it would essentially only require replacing equipment, not developing a new property.

Mr. Gaier said the utility can simply mount the equipment on steel footings that would raise it two feet above the anticipated 100-year flood level, or about 10 to 12 feet above sea level He said the utility is confident that will be sufficient to protect the systems in a bad storm.

ORIGINAL STORY: Tuesday 4 p.m.

A property off Flamingo Avenue in Montauk poses so many logistical hurdles to PSEG-Long Island that using it as the site for its new substation is clearly far from the preferred option—even without considering the mountain of public outcry over the idea.

At an all-day open house presentation in Montauk on Tuesday, PSEG staff made it clear that two sites in an already industrialized region of Montauk are the most logistically sound spots on which to build the new substation, according to their assessment methods.

Both those sites, however, would not jibe with the restrictions placed on the siting of critical infrastructure in probable hurricane flood zones by East Hampton Town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.

The existing site, which has been home to the hamlet’s main substation for nearly a century, may not have to comply with the LWRP’s limitation, because it would not constitute a new development, making it perhaps the choice of last resort for the utility should all other options prove too complicated.

In the practical-minded opinion of PSEG’s Long Island project manager, Manny Lilimpakis, constructing the new substation out of a cluster of steel-enclosed boxes, mounted on 8- to 10-foot-tall footings, at the current Industrial Road property, also makes the most sense, because it would require no new supply and distribution power lines.

“Everything is there, so there would be minimal disturbance outside the property,” Mr. Lilimpakis said. “And it would be enhanced, so it would not look like [it does now].”

The location that the Long Island Power Authority has envisioned building a new substation at for decades, a quarter mile away on Shore Road, is equally practical, Mr. Lilimpakis said, because of its industrial surroundings, as well as its proximity to existing supply lines and a battery storage facility constructed last year on an adjacent property.

At the Shore Road site, instead of lofting the substation equipment on steel footings, the company would instead raise the actual grade of the property by 8 to 10 feet, so that the floor of the new substation would sit about 1 foot higher than the adjacent railroad tracks. The substation equipment would be similarly enclosed in metal boxes on the site and thoroughly protected from flooding, the engineers said.

The other three potential sites that are under active consideration by PSEG all raise substantial complications in the utility’s assessment process.

The Flamingo site poses hurdles because of its sloping topography, scenic easement restrictions on portions of the land, and the need to cut across Suffolk County Water Authority property to run distribution lines out to Flamingo Avenue without violating the property’s easements.

“The contours are quite tortuous,” Mr. Lilimpakis said of the 6-acre parcel, which is already subdivided into four housing lots but has never been developed. “It is not made for industrial applications. It is for housing.”

A parcel adjacent to the former landfill has been the preferred option for Montauk residents who have organized this winter in opposition to the Flamingo Avenue property being used. But for PSEG to build there, East Hampton Town and Suffolk County would have to agree to a land swap, for another town-owned parcel—which would then require state legislation, because that parcel is parkland. It would also require clearing nearly 5 acres of land to construct the substation and run power transmission lines down a hill to where existing supply lines run along North Shore Road.

The final site under consideration is the land known as Eddie Ecker County Park. The property is very near power supply lines and a portion of it is a former sand mine, so it is already “disturbed,” and an existing berm would mean a substation on the land would be easily screened from view of people passing on North Shore Road.

To connect a substation at the site to existing supply lines, the utility would have to mount a short stretch of supply lines high above North Shore Road and the Long Island Rail Road tracks, using two 60- to 80-foot-tall steel poles. The property would also require the utility and Suffolk County to go through the complicated process of opening dedicated parkland to development.

PSEG officials said Tuesday that the company has not made any decisions about where it prefers to construct the new substation and that they are eager to hear the thoughts of the community on the various options before PSEG makes its pitch.

“We don’t want to characterize where we want to build,” PSEG communications director David Gaier said. “We want to get community input. We’re not ruling anything in or out today, but we are making it clear what the differences are in constructibility and difficulty.”

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