CRMC calls for study of undersea cable

Electromagnetic fields can attract unwanted sealife
Tue, 02/07/2017 - 4:30pm

The Coastal Resources Management Council has called for National Grid to conduct a study on a possible “electromagnetic field” that may be emanating from a section of the undersea cable that was not installed at the appropriate depth under the seabed. That study, according to a CRMC official, will be done within the next two weeks. 

Laura Dwyer, the Public Educator and Information Coordinator for the CRMC, said National Grid’s sea2shore cable that was installed for the Block Island Wind Farm project — and other cables like it — “do emit levels of EMF, and there is evidence and concern that certain species… including sharks, rays, and skates, could be drawn to the cable in that area.” 

Dwyer added that “This is why we want to have National Grid do the EMF study now, so we can determine if this is even an issue. It might not be.” 

Dwyer wanted to be very clear that, as far as this issue was concerned, she was “not downplaying” the significance of asking for the study, she said. “We do have concerns, so that’s why we’ve ordered the study done. I’d definitely categorize this as something done out of an abundance of caution. We want bathers safe, and will work with National Grid and the town to devise the best solution with that in mind.”

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, an electromagnetic field is “a property of space caused by the motion of an electric charge. A stationary charge will produce only an electric field in the surrounding space. If the charge is moving, a magnetic field is also produced… The mutual interaction of electric and magnetic fields produces an electromagnetic field which is considered as having its own existence in space apart from the charges or with which it may be related.”

David Graves, Director of Strategic Communications for National Grid, said in an email to The Block Island Times, “Yesterday, National Grid met with the CRMC and representatives from the town of New Shoreham and Block Island Power Company to update the new Town Manager on the continued efforts regarding the sea2shore submarine cable installation in a short section where the targeted cable depth was not met. We are working on an agreed upon solution that will meet the needs of both the Town and BIPCo.”

The 80-foot section of cable that is not buried to the appropriate depth is located about 200 feet off the shore at Town Beach, where the cable comes ashore. The study will determine what options National Grid has to address the EMF emanating from the cable, according to Dwyer, if it needs to be addressed.

“National Grid is presenting us and the town with a number of different options for resolution, none of which have been decided upon at this point. What National Grid is doing right now, and you can hopefully get more details from them if needed, is that they are conducting their EMF study within the next two weeks. It was part of their permit with CRMC that they would conduct an EMF study, but we’ve asked for the data immediately, to determine if there is, in fact, an issue with EMF levels.”

Dwyer said she will update The Block Island Times as more information becomes available.

For more information, see this week’s edition of The Block Island Times.