Town demands long-term solution for cable issues

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 6:30pm
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The Town of New Shoreham has made it clear that it will not settle for any more temporary solutions for addressing the exposed electric transmission cables at the Town Beach. A short-term solution for addressing the shallow burial depth of National Grid’s sea2shore cable, placing a protective plastic sleeve over the exposed portion of the cable, was rejected so that a longer-term solution could be found.

“Work that was supposed to begin today was suspended by agreement of all three parties: National Grid, Deepwater Wind and the Coastal Resources Management Council,” New Shoreham Town Manager Ed Roberge told The Times on Tuesday. Roberge said National Grid and Deepwater Wind are now tasked with finding a long-term solution by year’s end. 

“We as a community have been saying that we need a long-term solution,” said Roberge. “We appreciate the partnership we have with National Grid and Deepwater Wind, but this is something we’ve been pushing for since my arrival. I’ve only had one solution in mind. Lowering the cable to its designed depth is appropriate and required.”

Ted Kresse, spokesman for National Grid, told The Times that, “Deepwater Wind and National Grid are continuing to work together to identify long-term solutions that will address the sediment coverage issue. Both CRMC and the Town of New Shoreham will be kept apprised of our efforts on a regular basis. To that end, earlier this week we conveyed to the CRMC that both parties are working together to further explore solutions that could be implemented as soon as the spring of 2019. The first step in identifying these solutions is for National Grid and Deepwater Wind to perform geophysical and geotechnical surveys. Both parties will be working proactively and hope to have an update on our progress early next year.”

Kresse said, just to clarify, “We intend to complete the geophysical and geotechnical surveys and identify potential next steps by the end of the year. If a long-term solution is identified as viable for implementation in the spring of 2019 we would move forward with it at that time, assuming we have secured all local, state and federal regulatory approvals for doing so.”

“National Grid is fully prepared to address the sediment coverage issue in the interim if necessary. We are working with CRMC and the town to identify an agreeable source of sediment that could be placed offshore. We are also still considering additional protections for the cable, should the implementation of a long-term solution next spring not be viable. In the meantime, we anticipate removing the buoys marking the temporary no-anchor-zone in the days ahead, as was discussed with the town.”

Meaghan Wims, spokesperson for Deepwater Wind, said, “Deepwater Wind is currently reviewing historical information, collecting additional survey data and conducting necessary engineering to finalize a long-term plan for the Block Island Wind Farm export cable at Town Beach.  We’re confident that we’ll have a long-term plan by early 2019 for maintaining the cable’s burial depth.”

National Grid and Deepwater Wind’s cables, which are integral to the Block Island Wind Farm, have become exposed due to shifting sands close to the shoreline at the Town Beach. National Grid’s cable connects the mainland to the island’s power grid, while Deepwater Wind’s cable connects the island to the wind farm.

Roberge noted that the CRMC wants the two companies to furnish the agency with “engineering solutions for dealing with the cable on a long-term basis.” The CRMC is the state agency that has jurisdiction over the permitting process for both of the cables.

Roberge said the geotechnical field surveys will be conducted “to better understand what’s beneath” the sea floor. “It’s been described as a field of cobble.”

“Back in August, the CRMC met with National Grid and Deepwater Wind,” said Roberge.  At that time the plan was for Grid install a protective sleeve around its exposed cable. However, Roberge said that plan was scrapped after the three entities decided at the end of September to explore “longer-term solutions. This is a good thing,” he said. “We’re working toward a long-term solution.”

Roberge said that in his mind there are two long-term options for addressing the issue with the cables: “relocating or replacing” the cables. Relocating means installing the cables at their proper burial depth in a different location, while replacing the cables involves cutting and splicing the exposed sections of cable and reinstalling them at appropriate depth.

As for working with Deepwater Wind, which is in the process of being purchased by a Denmark-based offshore wind developer, Roberge said, “We don’t see any change. It’s the same folks that we’ve been dealing with. So everything is the same.”