The Wainscott group leading the opposition to the South Fork Wind Farm cable landing in their hamlet has made a new pitch to state regulators that bringing the cable ashore at Atlantic Avenue in Amagansett would be less disruptive than the Beach Lane site the wind farm developers prefer.
The group, the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, filed more than 600 pages of “testimony” into the South Fork Wind Farm application this week detailing how landing the cable at Atlantic Beach and running underground along Atlantic Avenue, under Montauk Highway, and beneath the Long Island Rail Road tracks to the LIPA electrical substation in Cove Hollow, just west of East Hampton Village, is the more benign path.
Their proposal, they say, would halve the number of homes and miles of local roadways that would be disturbed by the installation of the cable.
In a letter sent to some 1,300 local residents this week, the group’s co-founder and chairwoman, Gouri Edlich, says CPW is “poised” to sue the Town Board and the East Hampton Town Trustees to stop them from signing easement and lease agreements with the developers, Ørsted US Offshore Wind and Eversource, before the New York State Public Service Commission has completed its review of the cable landing application.
In her letter, Ms. Edlich faults the Town Board and the Trustees for not conducting an independent review of possible landing sites to determine if there are alternatives that would further minimize the impact on residents and says the application as presented fails to meet state mandated guidelines for minimizing impacts of a project.
“As we know, neither the town nor the Trustees undertook any independent investigation and/or analysis,” Ms. Edlich wrote. “Instead, they have accepted unquestioningly the information [as] Ørsted has chosen to provide it. Now, both the Town Board and the Trustees have signaled their intent to cut corners again. They plan to grant easements for Ørsted to land in Wainscott before the PSC has completed its Article VII environmental review.”
A comparison of the two routes, compiled by consultants working for the Wainscott group, says the Atlantic Avenue option would require the disturbance of less than 1 mile of one local roadway with just 46 homes along it, compared to 87 homes along 2 miles of roads for the Wainscott route.
Along with the Atlantic Avenue proposal, the group also pitched a modified version of the proposal that Ørsted itself has made in its application, for landing the cable at Hither Hills State Park in western Montauk.
While the wind farm developers’ alternative calls for the cable to be run beneath Montauk Highway for most of the 11 mile route from Hither Hills to Cove Hollow, the consultants working for CPW proposed that a far more simple route within the LIRR right-of-way, straight from Hither Hills to Cove Hollow, would be possible and would actually eliminate almost any impact on residential neighborhoods.
The opponents have repeatedly called the version of the Hither Hills landing alternative proposed by Ørsted a “poison pill,” precisely because it poses so many potential complications and disruptions. With road work blocking at least portions of the lone, narrow roadway that connects Montauk and Amagansett through what is expected to be two off-seasons, they have said the proposal was intended to be so off-putting to many town residents that it would cast the Wainscott alternative in a better light and turn public opinion toward that option. The group says the Wainscott site would be the cheapest for the developers because of the shorter on-land portion.
In contrast, the group argues, landing the cable at the park and following the railroad tracks would impact almost no homes and cause only minimal and brief disturbances to roadways while the cable was run the short distance from the park to the railroad right-of-way.
The pitch from the CPW would seem to have, at first blush, fallen on deaf ears at Ørsted — and Town Hall.
An Ørsted spokesperson said in a statement on Monday that the company believes its Wainscott proposal is still the best choice for the cable route.
“We are confident in our analysis of all possible routes and in the consensus that the Beach Lane route will have the least impact on the environment and the community,” a statement from the company said.
Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc deflected the criticism of the town’s analysis of the options available, saying that the town has, indeed, considered the several alternatives that have been proposed and was instrumental in derailing the initial proposal to bring the cable into Gardiners Bay and ashore near Lazy Point or Barnes Landing. The town has been an active participant in the closed-door discussion of alternatives over the last 10 months, but the supervisor said that he, at least, is still convinced the Wainscott landing site would pose the lowest impact on residents.
“I don’t see [an Amagansett site] as less disruptive,” he said. “If there was an easier way, I think after four years we would have come to it. It would behoove us all to do that. And it is not the town’s responsibility to design the project. It’s not the town’s project.”
Mr. Van Scoyoc has said publicly that he is in favor of the town signing the easement agreement with Ørsted for the use of approximately 2 miles of town roads through Wainscott, without waiting until the PSC has completed its review, since the easements would not take effect unless the Wainscott plans, and the project as a whole, earns the requisite approvals.
The board has not yet proposed a vote on the easement agreements, but only Councilman Jeff Bragman has openly voiced opposition to the idea of proceeding ahead of the application approval.
Inking the agreement would bring a $500,000 payment from Ørsted to the town, the first of dozens over the 25 year life of the project that would total a little less than $29 million in all, to be used at the town and Trustees’ discretion. The Wainscott group says that the agreement also includes a clause whereby Ørsted would pay the legal costs for the town should it be sued over the easement agreements.
Mr. Van Scoyoc’s eagerness to sign the agreements, Ms. Edlich says in her letter, is an attempt to head-off the effort by her group to incorporate Wainscott into an autonomous village as an avenue to blocking the wind farm cable proposal.
The group, which collected more than 200 signatures of Wainscott residents over the summer, has said it hopes a referendum on incorporation could be put to Wainscott voters by the spring of 2021 — though the initiative has hit a speed bump with the recent realization that the Wainscott School District, the boundary the group used to define the village on its petition, crosses into Sagaponack and East Hampton villages.
“Our pastoral heritage is not for sale,” Ms. Edlich said in the letter, nodding to the fact that none of the Town Board members live in the hamlet, “particularly by those who do not live here.”