Shelter Island Reporter editorial: Power plays revisited

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Nightmare from the summer of 2013 when Bortech, a Long Island Power Authority subcontractor, failed in its attempt to run cables from Shelter Island to Greenport.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO
Nightmare from the summer of 2013 when Bortech, a Long Island Power Authority subcontractor, failed in its attempt to run cables from Shelter Island to Greenport.

Power, and who gets it, who uses it and who fights for it, is at play between some Greenport residents and Shelter Island.

Power — electrical and political — is the prize in this battle, with the Greenporters riled up and publicly flogging their elected officials, PSEG and Islanders over the planned digging of a tunnel to house cables running from a Greenport neighborhood to the Heights.

Islanders want to say, “Welcome to our world,” because we’ve been through it.

The argument from the North Fork is that the cable will benefit only the Island, bringing us a reliable backup source of power, which is PSEG’s legal mandate and they’re acting on it.

But are Islanders the only beneficiaries? What about the fat paycheck Greenport will get from PSEG to boost its budget without taxes and finance needed infrastructure in the village?

The power company, when it was known as LIPA, began digging a tunnel for electrical cables three years ago from Crescent Beach to Greenport to connect with a substation in Southold Town. It ended in disaster, when the contractor couldn’t finish the job. This would have been seen as a comic opera — the project’s contractor was run by a man whose surname is Titanic — if it hadn’t been such a disruption for residents of the Heights who had to live with noise and dirt and dust flying through the air for months.

The Shelter Island Town Board unanimously refused to go to PSEG’s Plan B, which would allow construction of an electrical substation here. That plan was absurd on its face — building an industrial facility in a residential neighborhood next to the Shelter Island Historical Society.

Nevertheless, the plan was rolled out three times by PSEG before the board, acknowledging loud and sustained protests from residents, passed legislation saying no way, no how.

Greenport residents were up in arms about the tunnel project in 2013, which disrupted their lives for months. They had a real argument, especially when it came to the incompetents who were tearing up the neighborhood, only to eventually throw in the towel on the project.

PSEG’s plan for a new project has to be looked at soberly, and decisions made in the same manner. We had our war with the power company, and our elected officials came down on the side of the voters.

A recent editorial from another newspaper said “if the power fails on Shelter Island, where the powers that be refuse to permit construction of a substation, perhaps PSEG can provide its residents with another solution by delivering a ferryload of matches and candles to light their way.”

That would be nice. We’ve just recently stopped living in trees and eating owls, so candles will be welcome.

Greenporters are fighting their corner in this power play and good luck to them. Islanders, who fought and won to keep a potentially dangerous facility out of a neighborhood, will continue to fight for their right to make correct decisions for the community.

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