Grid to deploy buoys, again, and maybe again

To protect exposed section of cable
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 6:30pm

There will be a field of buoys off the Town Beach this summer, and possibly next summer, as National Grid determines a plan for reinstalling a section of its exposed cable. An early estimate to reinstall the cable is about $10 million, but it is not known who would be footing the bill for the work. 

That’s what Town Manager Ed Roberge told the New Shoreham Town Council at its meeting Wednesday night. “It’s a significant project,” he said, noting that there is no short-term solution besides covering the cable with sand. He said the cable installation could occur in the fall of 2020. As for who will pay for the installation, Roberge said he would “defer to National Grid” to answer that question.

Both National Grid and Ørsted need to design long-term solutions for addressing exposed sections of their cables off of the Town Beach. The two cables have become exposed due to shifting sand and dense sediment in the surf zone.

Grid’s cable connects the island to the mainland, and contains the fiber optics that delivers the town’s broadband service, while Ørsted’s export cable links the Block Island Wind Farm to Block Island’s power grid. Roberge said the installation process should not disrupt connectivity for too long a period of time, as splicing is done almost instantaneously.

In the meantime, National Grid will be deploying a field of buoys to demarcate a no-anchor zone at the beach to protect the exposed section of its 34,500-volt subsea cable. Grid installed buoys last summer, shielding the cable from boating activity. The utility company has said that the exposed section of its cable does not present a danger to swimmers.

Geophysical surveys conducted last year determined that dense sediment made it challenging for Grid to install its cable to the proper burial depth of six feet beneath the sea floor in June of 2016. In February, Grid told The Times that the remedy for the exposure issue is to install a brand new section of cable using horizontal directional drilling.

Grid is trying to determine a plan and schedule for its cable installation, and  has called plans for drilling and splicing to address the cable issue “complex.” Grid and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council will be meeting in May to address the issue. 

Ted Kresse, National Grid’s Director of Strategic Communications, said, “We are proposing to install buoys off Crescent Beach as an added measure to protect the cable, as was done last summer. We anticipate deploying them in mid-June.”

“The no-anchor zone would be established out of an abundance of caution, to prevent the cable from being damaged by boat anchors,” said Kresse. “The area remains safe for swimming and other water-related activities, as the cable is heavily armored and insulated.”

Kresse said Grid was “working with the Town of New Shoreham and state agencies to solidify next steps. We’re still developing our schedule for the installation of a new segment of cable via horizontal directional drilling. As engineering and design advance, we will be able to share the schedule and construction sequencing at that time.”  

Meaghan Wims, spokesperson for Ørsted, said, “Swimmers, boaters, and other ocean users will be able to transit the area around the submarine Block Island Wind Farm export cable as normal and without restrictions this summer. In the meantime, Ørsted continues to work closely with National Grid to deliver the best long-term solution for all stakeholders and explore ways we can collaborate.”

Laura Dwyer, spokesperson for the CRMC, said, “We are working with both National Grid and Ørsted to come up with a plan for a permanent solution. We have a meeting with both Ørsted and National Grid next month.”