Cable To Cross Spawning Grounds?

Critics of a proposed wind generator farm off the coast of Montauk are zeroing in on a plan to bring the power cables ashore on Beach Lane in Wainscott.

Deepwater Wind presented its plan to the East Hampton Town Board and, separately, to The Independent in December. A cable would run from the 15-turbine South Fork Wind Farm wind, more than 30 miles out in the Atlantic, to a point 2000 feet off Beach Lane—far enough away that its proponents say it won’t disturb bathers.

The cables, about six inches in diameter, would then be threaded through a previously buried underground tube 10 feet below the surface, and emerge just north of the beach parking lot. A 15,000-square-foot area would be Ground Zero for the project from there.

The process of burying the cable on land, through Wainscott, would commence: under Beach Lane, Main Street, Wainscott Stone Road, and Hedges Lane to the Long Island Rail Road tracks and, eventually, to the PSEG Buell Lane substation. Deepwater would repave the roads when the project is completed two years later.

No work would be done during the summer, vowed Clint Plummer, vp/development, Deepwater. He said neighbors wouldn’t be overly inconvenienced because one lane of traffic would remain open at all times.

But Wainscott residents have become increasingly vocal about the two-year project, and many complain Deepwater never asked for their input.

“Everyone in the community will have opportunities to provide their input on the permitting of our project, and we welcome that feedback,” said Aileen Kenney, Deepwater Wind’s vp/permitting and environmental affairs.

Fishing and environmental groups alike say the time frame in unrealistic. They reason that the cable will cross key spawning grounds for winter flounder that run horizontal with the shoreline, and that other fish species spawn in those waters as well.

Laying the cable is a concern, but so is the noise generated by the project.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Department of State’s Ocean Action Plan (OAP) both expressed grave concern about the future of several species, especially winter flounder, and urged their habitats be protected. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), in a recent report, noted the “proposed cable route will bisect an area where fish biomass tends to be highest throughout all life cycles.”

In fact, the East Hampton Town Trustees refrain from opening Georgica Pond to the ocean in the spring until after the spawning season ends in fear that the letting may disturb the delicate biological balance that exists on the offshore bottomland.

“We’ll work closely with the state and federal agencies reviewing our project to ensure we build and operate the wind farm in a responsible way,” Kenney assured.

Jeffrey Bragman, who took a seat on the East Hampton Town Board in January, is the board’s Wainscott liaison. He has publicly stated the town needs to do an environmental review, although it is not required by law. Some Wainscott residents are up in arms, and with good reason. “It’s a beloved beach. People feel strongly,” Bragman noted.

Bragman said it’s important the town assert its authority early on in the process. “My position is to not give anything away. They are making a request. That means we can say no.”

As for the spawning grounds, Bonnie Brady, executive director, Long Island Commercial Fishing Association and a persistent critic of Deepwater, said the company should know that running the cable during spawning season is a no-no—Deepwater ran into the same problem when planning the Block Island Wind Farm.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) issued a preliminary approval for the project in May, 2014 but noted, “No jet plowing shall occur during the time period of February 1 to March 31. This time of year, restriction is required for the protection of winter flounder.”

“The extensive environmental review of the South Fork Wind Farm and transmission cable will include considerations of a whole range of issues, including any impacts on fish, wildlife, and bodies of water,” Kenney assured.