National Grid to meet original deadline

After rejecting town’s $700,000 request
Fri, 05/06/2016 - 11:30am

The Block Island Times has learned that National Grid rejected a $700,000 request by the Town of New Shoreham to grant a construction deadline extension. National Grid informed the town on Tuesday, May 3, that it intends to meet its original construction deadline of May 15.

National Grid’s easement agreement with the town includes an additional floating seven workdays, excluding weekends that can be utilized until June 21 to accommodate completion of its cable installation at the Fred Benson Town Beach. 

“We received an email this afternoon from Kathryn Cox, from National Grid, and I will read it for you,” said Town Manager Nancy Dodge at the May 3 Town Council meeting.

“We appreciate the time and attention the town has paid to the easement extension request. Due to advances in the schedule of work at Scarborough Beach, and our inability to meet the town’s requirements communicated in relation to our requested extension, National Grid will be executing cable laying activities at the Fred Benson Town Beach, and north parking lot, within an additional seven days of work allowed between May 15 and June 21.”

“We will also be proceeding with the following activities in consultation with the town: institute increased safety measures at the beach, including lighting the fencing around the work areas, additional communications to residents, businesses and tourists, through advertisements and educational materials. We will not work on weekends within the seven-day period. We will complete all temporary restoration activities at the Fred Benson north parking lot at the completion of the work," the message from National Grid stated. “As communicated, the land cable work is still on hold at this time. We are working within the Army Corps process, and do not currently have a timeline to resolve the continued construction for this component of work. We will notify and provide an updated schedule to the town as soon as it is feasibly possible. Again we do want to thank the town’s time and attention to this matter. We are committed to working with all stakeholders to complete this project. And, thank you for your support and feedback throughout the process.”

After Dodge had finished reading National Grid’s statement, First Warden Ken Lacoste asked her if she had anything further to add.

“No. What (National Grid) is saying is that they’re going to be able to meet the deadline,” said Dodge. “They plan to have it done within the framework. So, there’s no further conversation, because there’s no request for an extension.”

“I think it’s great,” said Second Warden Norris Pike. “They completed that borehole (at Scarborough beach) today, or yesterday, and that was the big holdup. Now they can get started laying that cable.”

Pike said the Deepwater Wind submarine “cable will be laid first — going out to the wind farm. And as soon as that cable’s in place, they’ll head for Scarborough Beach, and lay the cable” that will connect the island to the mainland. “So, they’re on schedule, and will complete what work they have to do prior to our deadline.”

“When do we expect the north and south parking lots to be open?” asked Councilor Terry Mooney.

“Well, if they’re not asking for an extension, their activity is supposed to cease by June 21,” said Dodge. “So, the parking lot, I’m assuming, will be open on the 22nd. The south parking lot will probably be open next week. That was our understanding from Lynch.” Lynch Construction is one of the subcontractors working on the project.

“I’d like to congratulate the Town Council on the vote that was taken in closed session, because I think it really put pressure on Deepwater Wind and National Grid to complete the project safely and on time,” said Mooney. “So, it was a good vote, and I thank everyone on the Council.”

Resident Robbie Gilpin asked the Council “to release the sealed minutes” from the Monday, April 25 meeting. “Since it’s no longer relevant,” he said, “so we all know what you’re talking about.”

Lacoste said the Town Council would make the minutes available at the Council’s next work session on Wednesday, May 11.

Sven Risom noted two items related to National Grid’s cable installation. “One immediate, and one in the future,” he said. “There are huge opportunities for the town and National Grid to turn the work site at the beach into an educational opportunity. The Tourism Council will gladly help in ensuring that this is done well.” 

Lacoste said that he thought National Grid would be “more than willing to do that, as far as their communications go. That discussion can be had.”

Gilpin said the town should remember “that it’s a construction site first,” and expressed the importance of safety.

Risom noted that there are “significant opportunities” to address stormwater runoff into the Great Salt Pond on Beach Avenue, where National Grid will be rebuilding the road as part of its cable installation work.

During the discussion, Dodge said, “Beach Avenue is our next big problem. There is a memorandum of understanding between Deepwater Wind, National Grid, the Indians, Historic Preservation and the Army Corps of Engineers. They struck a few items of Indian origin. Work came to a halt. They have been working now for three weeks to resolve this in a way that allows for the work to continue.” The tribes involved are the Narragansetts and the Wampanoag Tribe at Gay Head (Aquinnah).

“National Grid has put forth a study analysis that would be a very slow sifting of the location, with plenty of archeologists on site, to stop if anything was found,” added Dodge. “The last two meetings — my understanding is, the Indians did not show up. So, they are trying very hard to work through this, because time is of the essence — not just for them, but particularly for us” on the island. “This is out of the control of National Grid, and it’s out of the control of Deepwater Wind. It’s being resolved with the Army Corps of Engineers at this point.” 

Dodge said, “One piece of good news that we got today, was that the Indians have agreed with the Army Corps to separate the issue with the waterline out entirely. We’ve gotten a CRMC (Coastal Resources Management Council) permit to bury that line. So, that will be done shortly.” Dodge also noted that “the water is on” at the Fred Benson Town Beach.

When reached for comment regarding the matter, David Graves, National Grid Media Relations Director, told The Times that, “We asked for the 45-day extension because we felt we needed an additional buffer for our schedule because of the uncertainty of a completion date for the drilling work at Scarborough Beach. At the time it appeared potential impacts would push us beyond the June 21st date to an anticipated completion date of June 25. Significant progress has been made in the drilling at Scarborough Beach. We have cleared the granite and will now work toward completing the drilling. However, poor weather conditions are delaying the process. Because of the challenges and complexities of this project, a buffer would still be helpful, but we would rather spend additional resources on working within the seven day window of the existing easement than paying out a large sum of money, which as a regulated utility, we could not justify to our regulators or our customers.”