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Thiele boosts funding for underground grids

COURTESY PHOTO Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr.
COURTESY PHOTO Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr.

Ironically, on the same day that most Shelter Islanders experienced a brief power outage while Silver Beach residents were out for close to two hours, came word from Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) that he is cosponsoring a bill to create a dedicated state fund  to install underground utility lines across the state.
The bill would systematically place all the state’s electrical grids underground if requested  by local communities. Long Island communities are affected by hurricanes and nor’easters with high winds, while upstate communities have more problems with ice storms, Mr. Thiele said.

The preliminary information on the bill doesn’t indicate the amount of funding needed, but would use Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) disaster recovery money and storm mitigation funds to place the electrical grids underground.

“This is the most effective way to get power lines underground,” Mr. Thiele said.

Referring to Superstorm Sandy that devastated many communities and left some customers without power for more than two weeks, the legislator said climate change is a reality that will result in extreme weather events.

“This bill is a long-term initiative to mitigate these impacts by providing a tool to place our critical utility infrastructure underground,” Mr. Thiele said. “In the past, FEMA funds have been utilized to merely restore utility lines above ground where they are susceptible to recurring extreme weather. In effect we will be making the same mistakes over by directing such funds to underground utility lines in the future.”

He has previously shepherded legislation allowing East Hampton to permit special districts to be created to provide local funding for underground utility lines and similar legislation is affecting Southampton is pending.

“A state-local partnership is the best means of assisting local communities in vulnerable geographic areas to improve their utility infrastructure in the face of increased risk from climate and weather changes,” he said.

As for Monday morning’s outages on Shelter Island, most of the town lost power  for a total of 12 minutes, while 53 residents in the Silver Beach area remained without power into the early afternoon hours when it was restored.

Silver Beach residents were affected by a blown fuse. Just before noon, PSEG spokesman Jeffrey Weir said a crew from off-Island was responding to that problem.

As for the outage that occurred Island wide at 10:23 a.m. with power returning at 10:35 a.m., that could have been caused by a squirrel or even a branch hitting a line, Mr. Weir said.

The PSEG spokesman explained that circuits are made more sensitive  so that when an event occurs, power goes down until workers can ensure, for their own “health and welfare,” that it’s safe to restore it. As soon as the workers had completed the “all clear” check, they were able to bring back power to most of the Island, but discovered that Silver Beach remained out because of the blown fuse.

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