Wind Farm Soil Testing In Wainscott Approved For June

The five wind turbines of the Block Island Wind Farm, which was built by Deepwater Wind. Capt. Michael Potts photo

East Hampton Town will allow Deepwater Wind to conduct a test boring at Beach Lane at some point this month to determine whether the site is suitable for landing the power cable for the planned South Fork Wind Farm.

The Town Board on Tuesday approved a resolution giving the offshore wind company, now owned by Norwegian energy giant Ørsted, permission to conduct two days of drilling between now and June 30 to take samples of the sort of soils and other materials that lay beneath the parking lot and beach.

The drilling will take place on a weekday in the Beach Lane parking lot, where the 50-mile undersea cable would emerge from the 1,500-foot boring beneath the beach and connect to underground power lines on land.

The Town Board has twice before given the company permission to conduct soil testing along the entire cable route through Wainscott to sample the types of soil and check for signs of archaeological artifacts.

Last spring, the company put off the work as it tried to ameliorate the concerns of Wainscott residents who were organizing in opposition to the project as the public review process with the state Public Service Commission was just getting underway.

The board renewed the licensing agreement for the soil tests this past winter, but the coronavirus pandemic forced Deepwater Wind to put off the work again — as well as announce that it now expects the completion of the project to be pushed back by a year, to 2023.

The company has only asked to conduct the drilling at the landing site and has told the town it will take up the broader sampling at another time.

Both of the previous votes of approval divided the board. Last year, Councilman Jeff Bragman and Councilman David Lys both objected. In January of this year, only Mr. Bragman continued to object to allowing the drilling and sampling digs to take place before the project review is completed, and Mr. Bragman reiterated his objections on Tuesday as the lone vote against granting the company its request.

Allowing the testing to move ahead amounts to the town endorsing the Beach Lane landing site over the Montauk site that the company has said is its second choice of landing areas, Mr. Bragman said.

“As a practical reality, the board signing onto this is saying it is in agreement with Deepwater Wind about this site” being the best for landing the cable, Mr. Bragman said.
Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said it is not a vote for the site being used, but simply allowing the company to take a step that will inform it about whether the site is suitable to land the cable.

The supervisor said the Town Board could still ultimately decide not to let Deepwater Wind use the town-owned beach parking lot and roadways in Wainscott. But he also said that the route is the shortest and would have the least disruptive impact on busy roadways.

Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Logan-Gluck told the board during Tuesday’s Zoom meeting work session that Wainscott residents are concerned about allowing the drilling at the start of the summer and implored the board to push the company to do the work after Labor Day.

Mr. Van Scoyoc said the town has insisted that the drilling work not impede access to the beach.

“That is the beach that I visit, it’s the closest one to my house,” Mr. Van Scoyoc, who lives in Northwest, said. “I understand people cherish the beach. I would not approve any closure of access to the beach.”