LIPA now targets a November completion for pipeline project

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | LIPA contractors at work last month at Crescent Beach before all work was stopped due to a breakdown in the tunnel to Southold.

The Long Island Power Authority has notified residents on both sides of the harbor it has accepted a plan from Bortech, its drilling contractor, that should enable completion of the project by November.

The $9 million project launched in the spring is aimed at providing backup power to Shelter Island. The Island currently depends primarily on one aging line from Southold since a second line was damaged during Super Storm Sandy. When completed, the project will provide three cables linking Shelter Island to the Southold substation. Another line runs between Shelter Island and North Haven to the south, but provides only limited power to the Island.

As for the time line associated with the plan, that’s still being worked out. “Should the plan be completed successfully, we expect the project to conclude prior to the start of November, with only site cleanup activities remaining,” according a press release from LIPA District Manager Todd Stebbins.

At the same time, Mr. Stebbins said nothing was written in stone: “With any project of this complexity, there is the possibility of encountering unexpected obstacles and delays.”

Last week, LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said the cleanup effort of the clay-like bentonite would take a week and work couldn’t be restarted on the pipeline project until that was completed.

There have been various explanations by LIPA of exactly what stopped the work on August 24, just as workers were close to finishing what had been a more than 24-hour process of pulling pipes through a previously constructed tunnel between Shelter Island and Southold.

Initially, LIPA vice president Nick Lizanich told Southold residents that a drill rig had malfunctioned. Last week, Mr. Gross elaborated, saying that a piece of the drilling rig broke just 500 feet from the Southold side. Now Mr. Stebbins described the breakdown, saying  Bortech workers had completed the initial drill hole and were in the process of expanding  the drill path to make it large enough to accommodate the required conduits for the new cable installation.

“Upon completion of the drill path on Friday, August 23, the contractor then initiated the process of pulling across the three 10-inch conduits in the established tunnel that was drilled across Peconic Bay,” the release stated.  “After making good progress late Friday into the early hours of Saturday, August 24, the conduits stopped moving and the project’s progress stalled.” The plan to get the project restarted has been vetted by an unnamed “expert consultant.”

Initially the project was said to be completed prior to Memorial Day.

It’s too early to tell how the breakdowns will affect the project’s final price tag, according to LIPA officals.

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