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Mar 12, 2019 5:06 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Montauk Residents Pitch Alternative Sites For A Substation To PSEG

The site of the current Montauk substation on Industrial Road. PSEG has said that one of its options would be raising the grade of the property to 12 feet above sea level and building its new substation atop it.
Mar 13, 2019 11:23 AM

A group of Montauk residents has presented PSEG-Long Island with a pair of alternative sites for the hamlet’s future substation—including a broad swath of land owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that was once planned for a new stretch of highway bypassing the hamlet’s downtown.

The residents—members of a subcommittee of the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee and the neighbors of the Flamingo Avenue property that PSEG has been considering—also presented the utility and East Hampton Town officials with an idea for a potential land swap between the town and Suffolk County. The proposal would have the town take over a new parcel of wooded land north of the old landfill, where the PSEG could build its substation, while the county would add a currently town-owned parcel to its vast parkland holdings in the area.

“The town could give 2 acres of land to the county, and the county gives the town 2.2 acres closer to existing transmission lines,” said Shaun de Jesus, one of residents who helped craft the approach. “[PSEG] said they would be comfortable with all that. In terms of the community, people really want [the substation] near the dump, and this would accomplish that while getting it closer to the power lines to the north.”

The parcel of county land that the group has proposed to be swapped to the town would require the county to also grant the utility an easement through a short stretch of woodlands on which to run power lines down to existing lines on Navy Road, Mr. de Jesus said.

The county owns more than 800 acres of woodlands in the area surrounding the town landfill property. The town has proposed that PSEG use the landfill property itself.

PSEG, the utility contractor that operates the Long Island grid for the Long Island Power Authority, has said that it is still considering the landfill site. But the utility has scored the site very low on its list of options, largely because it is a long way from any existing power lines.

The other option the residents pitched is a narrow swath of land totaling more than 37 acres that is one of three still owned by the MTA, stretching from Lions Field, just north of Montauk Highway in downtown Montauk, and running east past the north side of the Montauk Library building. To the east of the library, there are portions of the parcel that are far enough from nearby houses that it would be an easy place to carve out a few acres for a substation that could be easily screened from sight.

Linda Barnds, the head of the Montauk CAC subcommittee that was empaneled to search for new potential sites for the substation, said that she thinks the residents have presented the utility with a pair of very viable options that they think could offer suitable locations for the substation without impacting residential neighborhoods or placing the substation in a flood plain. She said she thought the land-swap proposal was the most appealing to PSEG.

“It’s not an easy thing—people say why can’t it go here or there but then you start looking at it and you realize it can’t just go anywhere you want to put it,” Ms. Barnds, a real estate broker, said. “I have to give John D’Agostino and Shaun de Jesus credit for having done the hard work on this. It was a mission we took on, and it was accomplished, I think. Now it’s up to the town and PSEG to figure out what can be done.”

A spokesman for PSEG confirmed that the company has recieved the proposals from the residents and will consider them.

"We’re looking at that, and continuing to investigate all the sites and options available to us," David Gaier, PSEG;s director of communications, said. "We’ll discuss those sites and options with visitors during our public workshop in Montauk on April 2."

The company will host an all-day information session on all its considerations in Mon tauk on April 2.

The utility contractor has long planned to build its new substation on Shore Road, where LIPA has owned a parcel since the 1970s. But a wave of objections from residents and town officials, largely because the parcel lies in a potential flood plain, convinced PSEG to look elsewhere.

Their preferred alternative appears to be a parcel of land off Flamingo Avenue just to the north of the Montauk Playhouse. But that site also drew a deluge of criticism from the community for being a potential eyesore on one of the hamlet’s main thoroughfares.

The utility has said it is also willing to raise the grade on the existing substation property—a manmade peninsula jutting into Fort Pond and sitting only inches above the water—and build the new substation there. Its officials have said that flooding is not a concern in their eyes as long as the facility is 12 feet above sea level.

Ms. Barnds says she personally thinks the most logical thing for PSEG to do is to simply bolster the current substation and build its new facility there.

The new substation is expected to look very different from the current “erector set” style that has been common with substations in the last several decades. The new systems are mostly enclosed in buildings and not as tall as the current facilities. With the increase in grade, Ms. Barnds said, the utility has said the overall height would be about 30 feet, the height of a typical two-story house with an attic.

She acknowledges that the current site would pose the same questions about flooding impacts in a hurricane as at the Shore Road site but said that if the PSEG engineers are confident their facility can withstand such an event, there should be little reason for laypeople to object.

“I know the town doesn’t want it in the floodplain, but PSEG is not concerned about that—they say they can build substations in the middle of the ocean and can build this one up high enough that it’s not a concern,” Ms. Barnds said. “If what it comes down to is that nobody wants a substation in their backyard, then where it is now doesn’t present that problem—and it’s called Industrial Road for a reason.”

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Bravo to Barnds, D'Agostino, and DeJesus for their diligence. But why is it acceptable to make the community do all the heavy lifting here? Shouldn't Van Scoyac, Overby (as Mtk liaison) et al be aggressively working alongside this committee rather than passively waiting for them to bring alternative sites to PSEG's attention?
By dogtired (29), north sea on Mar 14, 19 12:19 PM