$60 million cable reburial project underway

Thu, 10/08/2020 - 6:15pm
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Two water-based projects are currently underway on the island: dredging in Old Harbor and the sea2shore cable reburial project at Fred Benson Town Beach.

First Warden Ken Lacoste provided insight into the two projects during a Town Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 5.

The cable reburial project, undertaken by National Grid and Ørsted, will be reburying two sections of the undersea cables, with sections of new cables to be spliced onto the existing cable that connects the island, the Block Island Wind Farm and the mainland. National Grid has stated that its portion of the project will cost $30 million. The Block Island Times has verified from two independent sources that the Ørsted portion of the project will cost more or less the same, bringing the total cost of the project to about $60 million.

Harbormaster Kate McConville also provided a message to the community on the two projects on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

“There is a lot of equipment arriving to the island for the cable reburial project, and some of it will be stored on the water side in Old Harbor and New Harbor. During the same time this fall and winter, the Army Corp. will be dredging the anchorage and inner basin of Old Harbor… We welcome both crews, and hope they have some time to enjoy the island,” said McConville.

On Wednesday, Oct. 7, the Coastal Resources Management Council forwarded a notice to The Block Island Times on the specifics of the dredging project in Old Harbor:

“The project will include: maintenance dredging of sandy material from around the bait dock in Old Harbor with beneficial reuse of the sand at Town beaches. Currently, the dredge footprint has approximately 3,350 CY of material. The application is to have a long term (10 year) permit for maintenance dredging in this footprint. The dredging is proposed to be via mechanical dredging with either the Crescent beach nearshore site or direct placement via a trucking operation on other Town beaches.”

Lacoste also shared a note from Facilities Manager Sam Bird on the cable process:

“With the end of the summer season, National Grid and Ørsted will be commencing the cable reburial project at Fred Benson Town Beach. Several pieces of equipment have taken place in the north lot at Fred Benson Town Beach, [with] more equipment arriving and the drilling operation will commence — at which point, all the north lot will be occupied and all but the very southern end of the south lot will be occupied. The path to the beach at the south end of the lot was made accessible though. Please do not park in the north lot or the south lot except for the very south end. We know this will be an inconvenience to many who are used to accessing Fred Benson Town Beach all winter, however it is important that this work be completed, and we thank everyone for your understanding,” read Lacoste.

Lacoste reminded the audience watching the meeting that people, due to the upcoming Columbus Day weekend, should “be wary and cautious, as we still have mopeds, bicycles, pedestrians and deer to watch out for.”

“We should all take heed of the words of warning from our own [Block Island Medical Center director] Dr. Warcup in his recent social media message: continue to wear masks, social distance, monitor our health, wash our hands often, and recreate out of doors while the weather still allows us to,” said Lacoste.

Warcup also announced in his video, reiterated by Lacoste, “that the Medical Center will be starting to administer flu vaccines next week, so watch out for announcements as to when those will be available to us depending on our age and medical condition.”

Changes to New Shoreham’s Charter

Charter Review Commission member Keith Stover joined the call, and shared an overview of proposed changes to New Shoreham’s Charter.

“We separated into two buckets the changes we are suggesting. One of them I would describe as kind of a transparency in public access to information, broadcasting meetings, and using social media more to let people in the town know what is going on… The second bucket that we focused on is government organization,” said Stover.

The long and detailed list of proposed changes can be found on new-shoreham.com, under Town Council Agenda dated Oct. 5.

The Block Island Times spoke with Town Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick in the morning, Tuesday, Oct. 6, for insight on the Charter Review Commission’s process for proposed amendments. She stated that there are two major forces in this process: the force of the Town Council to review the new ideas and suggestions, and the competing force is to have the suggestions and questions completed to be put onto a ballot for an unknown date. Fitzpatrick added that the commission meets and reviews the charter every 10 years.

“The original plan was to put them on the ballot for the November 3 election. That can’t happen this year – it’s way too late and because of the impacts from Covid-19. The process to amend the charter is that any amendments have to be voted by the majority of citizens of the town. The way it gets there: every 10 years a Charter Review Commission reviews the charter and suggests changes – last night [Monday, Oct. 5] was the changes. The Town Council can then go through the changes and pass them along to the voters or they can amend those changes. There’s no public hearing process on those questions, it’s purely the Town Council sitting down and discussing what they have been given by the Charter Review Committee. They can pass those changes on a ballot for the voters to vote on,” said Fitzpatrick, adding that the timing of the voting on charter questions is unclear at the moment.

“We are not sure on the timing of it… but any charter questions that go forward, and resolutions and wording, have to be ready 60 days in advance of the election that the General Assembly is going to push forward. We don’t know their timing, our thought was to get this in the pipeline,” said Fitzpatrick.

Second Warden André Boudreau added “we can edit, make changes – but the voters will be voting on it whenever we hold an election.”

Announcements on boards, committees and commissions

Lacoste announced a resignation had been submitted from Dick Stinson from the Deer Task Force. He also announced a letter had been submitted from Rob Closter to serve on the Zoning Board.

“I make a motion to appoint Rob Closter to the Zoning Board,” said Boudreau. The motion was seconded by Councilor Chris Willi, and unanimously approved by the council.

The council also received a letter of interest from Eileen Birk for the position on the Recreation Board, but Lacoste said that would be taken up at the Council’s next meeting.