Deepwater Wind’s cable exposed
Shifting sands and what is being called a “dynamic environment” at Fred Benson Town Beach is causing headaches for both Deepwater Wind and National Grid, with both companies vowing to work together to fix recurring issues with their cables being exposed in shallow water at low tide.
In the early morning hours of Wednesday, Aug. 15, crews were working to move sand from the beach to lay over about 10 feet of Deepwater Wind cable that connects the five wind turbines to the island.
According to Deepwater Wind Executive Director CEO Jeff Grybowski, the company became aware of the problem a little more than a week ago and then acted quickly to secure the proper permitting from town, state, and federal agencies to move the sand to cover the cable.
This is separate from the exposed cable incident with National Grid’s sea2shore cable that became public a week ago. That cable connects the island to the mainland, and is the cable that houses the fiber optic strands.
Grybowski said there was no specific incident that caused the Deepwater Wind cable to become exposed.
“It’s hard to say because it’s a very dynamic environment that’s changing day to day,” said Grybowski. “A week ago, a little less than that, we learned that a stretch of 10 feet of our cable did not have any sand on it. We sent someone to dive down there and see what was exposed. Late last week we began to put in place a plan to move some sand back on top of that stretch of cable. We worked the last few days to mobilize the crews and work with the town and federal agencies to do the work on the beach.” Grybowski said that the project received permits from the town, the Coastal Resources Management Council, the state Department of Environmental Management, and the Army Corps of Engineers.
When asked if he felt this was a long-term solution, Grybowski said he did not. He said the shifting sands have left that section of cable exposed, only to have it covered back up again days later. Grybowski said he thought this project would cover the cable for anywhere from four to six weeks.
“It’s not a long-term solution,” he said. He called moving the sand a “relatively easy operation as a near-term step to put cover on that cable,” but he cautioned that the “sand is moving around the beach pretty consistently.” He added that Deepwater is “now working with National Grid to come up with some alternative to find a longer-term solution.”
Grybowski was also asked if the Deepwater Wind cable was buried to the proper depth.
“It was,” he said. He said that a post-installation review of the cable was certified by the permitting agencies. “We felt our installation was according to plan, there’s just more sand movement than had been anticipated.”
Grybowski said that “there are no public safety issues, even with the exposed cable. It’s heavily armored and grounded and we and National Grid are convinced it’s quite safe. All things being equal, when it’s covered with sand it avoids the aesthetic issue.”
He added that Deepwater and National Grid “are collaborating on short- and long-term solutions. We’re working closely for one collective solution to these issues.”
Ted Kresse, National Grid spokesman, told The Block Island Times that “We’re actively working with the regulatory agencies and Deepwater Wind on both short-term and long-term solutions. We’re currently developing a plan with one of our marine contractors on a short-term option that could provide more sediment coverage over the cable and ideally be implemented in the next couple weeks. We’re also in close communication with the town and will keep them and other officials updated accordingly.”
Roberge said that “Discussions with National Grid continue on both near-term and long-term solutions. Near-term solutions include work programmed in October 2018 to add additional TekDuct insulation on the sea2shore cable. This work is pending permit approval at this time. Long-term solutions include lowering the cable, and perhaps others, and the town has expressed our continued desire to coordinate a permanent solution sooner than later. I trust National Grid feels the same way.”
“We understand that based on recent meetings between CRMC, National Grid and Deepwater Wind BI, a coordinated action plan between both agencies is requested in early fall. We’ve discussed initial steps in this process and will continue to collaborate with both National Grid and Deepwater Wind for a permanent sustainable solution. We appreciate CRMC’s continued support for town interests in this matter and look forward to meeting soon and further the process along.”— With additional material by Cassius Shuman