Exposed cables to be reinstalled by 2021

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 6:30pm
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Exposed sections of the transmission cables at the Fred Benson Town Beach will be reinstalled using horizontal directional drilling from the dunes, with completion of the project expected to be April of 2021.

This is good news for Town of New Shoreham officials, who had requested that the cables be reburied at their proper depth. The two cables belong to National Grid and Deepwater Wind/Ørsted.

“The great news for the project is that through all of the iterations and all of our communications — the only real sustainable solution was to lower that cable,” said Town Manager Ed Roberge while providing the Town Council with an update report at its Tuesday night meeting. “Design is underway. The cable design is expected to be completed around the later part of this month.” Completion of the design will be December of 2019, he said.

“So the project is moving forward,” said Roberge. “That’s encouraging.”

“Full, complete civil package, with selection of contractors is targeted for April of 2020,” said Roberge, who noted that no work would be done during the “peak summer season” of 2020. The work will be conducted from October of 2020 until April of 2021. Roberge said that power outages will try to be kept to a minimum, and the power company will operate its backup diesel generators during those times.

As for impact to the town’s broadband network connection, Roberge said, “At that time we would simply go back to our DSL, and T-1 line capability as a backup.”

Roberge said the town and National Grid and Deepwater Wind/Ørsted had been “working closely together” the past year to try to find a solution regarding the exposed cables issue. He said his report was a result of an August 21 meeting with the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, “with members of the Public Utilities Commission, National Grid, and Ørsted.”

“So the process is ongoing,” said Roberge. “National Grid and Ørsted are cooperating as a collaborative team to complete the design. The design is looking at cable sizing, the details around the splicing, and the civil work to do with the horizontal drilling.”

“Lowering the cable” means reinstalling it at the proper depth. The exposure issue was discovered during the summer of 2018 when National Grid’s cable was visibly exposed about 25 feet from the Town Beach at low tide.

Roberge called the plan “a huge step forward.”

As for the details, Roberge said National Grid would drill out about 2,000 feet from the sand dunes at the Town Beach to a point offshore where its cable would be spliced. “It’s likely existing easements will be reestablished and new easements could be generated,” and “some old equipment will be removed,” at the beach, he said. “Those details are being worked out,” including negotiations regarding the easements.

“As far as the occupation on the island, we’ll work closely with National Grid on the staging for the work,” said Roberge, noting that the existing manholes are located in the north parking lot at the beach.

Roberge said his next meeting with the parties involved in the project is scheduled for Jan. 16, 2020. He also said surveys of the sites will be conducted during the later part of this month.

National Grid acknowledged to The Times that it experienced challenges, including hard seabed while installing the cable at the beach, while Deepwater Wind/Ørsted contends that it met the required depth during the installation process. National Grid said shifting sands in a harsh marine environment also played a role in its cable becoming exposed. Both cables were installed in June of 2016.

National Grid’s sea2shore cable, containing fiber optics for the island’s broadband network, links the island to the mainland, while Deepwater Wind/Ørsted’s export cable delivers wind energy from the Block Island Wind Farm to the island’s electrical grid.

New town website domain

Roberge said the town will be using the .gov domain designation for its new website, which is still in its development stage. The new domain, which will cost $400 annually, will be newshorehamri.gov.

Roberge told The Times that the new website would be unveiled “in a month or so.” He noted that the town would retain its current .com domain “for the time being.”

“The new domain is in everybody’s best interests, including the town’s, from a security and recognition basis,” said Roberge at Tuesday’s meeting, while noting that the new website was coming along slowly, “but underway.”

Second Warden André Boudreau asked Roberge what the domain name change means for the town’s website.

“There are certain protocols and security that are inherently built into a .gov domain,” said Roberge. “It’s inherently safer; it’s more recognizable” than a .com domain. “It’s not only a brand issue, but it’s a security issue.”

Boudreau made the point that the town and island are more recognizable as Block Island than New Shoreham. “People on the mainland don’t know us as New Shoreham,” he said.

Roberge said Block Island is not the town’s true name, so the website needed to be recognized as New Shoreham.

“When you say security, I’m just curious as to why this wasn’t done a long time ago,” said Councilor Chris Willi, referring to the .gov designation.

“I can’t answer that,” said Roberge, noting that it was one of the things that needed to be addressed when he assumed office.

West Beach Road

Boudreau read correspondence from Anthony Pio Costa, who resides on West Beach Road and is requesting that the road be paved. He offered to pay $5,000 toward the potential project.

Councilor Sven Risom said the project is listed as pending on the town manager’s quarterly capital improvement project status worksheet. Roberge is listed as manager of the project, which has a completion date of June 30 of 2020.

“The thing about West Beach Road is the heavy trucking” that traffics the road, since the transfer station resides in that location, said Roberge. “The heaviest trucking activity that occurs on Block Island goes on on that road. It’s going to be an expensive venture to pave it. This is one of those projects I want to talk about for the future.”

The next Town Council meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.