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Apr 3, 2018 5:22 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Deepwater Ups Ante For Town Approvals While Fishermen Continue To Plead For Speed Bumps

Deepwater Wind Vice President Clint Plummer said the company will surround its drilling machines at Beach Lane with sound-dampening walls to minimize noise impacts on residents. Michael Wright
Apr 3, 2018 5:44 PM

East Hampton Town officials and Deepwater Wind representatives have been negotiating a new package of community benefits to be paid by Deepwater, worth more than $8 million to various corners of the town.

Some of the benefits would come in the form of infrastructure upgrades paid for by the company, and others would be direct payments into various town-run programs, mostly on behalf of environmental and economic improvements.

At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc read a list of additional contributions that the town is “requesting” from the company, beyond what Deepwater had offered earlier this winter in exchange for the town’s permission to use Beach Lane in Amagansett as the landing site for the company’s planned wind farm southeast of Montauk.

The original package of community benefits that the company had offered included $1 million for drinking water infrastructure improvements in Wainscott and burying overhead power lines along Beach Lane and Wainscott Main Street, which the company said would cost about $2.5 million, as well as $600,000 to be paid into two funds overseen by the East Hampton Town Trustees for improving fisheries and marine habitats.

On Tuesday, Mr. Van Scoyoc said the town is also asking for an additional $1 million to be put into a fund to study and improve the inshore commercial fishing industry in the town, and an additional $800,000 for the Trustees to use for environmental improvement projects like restoring eelgrass and shellfish stocks. Another $2 million would be dedicated to the buyout of latent commercial fishing permits—an issue that has been a hot-button one for commercial fishermen in recent years.

The Town Trustees had submitted their own package to Deepwater of what they wished to see offered in exchange for their granting permission for the power cable to run under the beach at Beach Lane. They had asked for a number of environmental improvement programs and compensation to fishermen for potential lost revenues due to the cable crossing.

Trustees Clerk Francis Bock said the Trustees had not put a specific dollar amount on anything, but thought that as much as $10 million would not be unreasonable, considering the nearly $1 billion estimated cost of the wind farm project.

Deepwater Wind Vice President Clint Plummer said after Tuesday’s meeting that the list of demands Mr. Van Scoyoc had detailed moments earlier were the result of the recent negotiations between the company and the town and Trustees, though he said no specific agreement has been settled on yet.

Other board members said they would also still want to see substantially more information from the company before they would be able to vote on allowing the cable to come ashore at Beach Lane.

Councilman Jeff Bragman read off a long list of details about the project that he felt weren’t adequately addressed in the more than 100-page report the company submitted to the town recently or the presentation by Deepwater executives on Tuesday.

He asked the company to submit a full inventory of all the equipment it would use at Beach Lane for the horizontal drilling under the beach and sea floor to the connection point 2,000 feet offshore; more information about the compounds in the slurry that will be injected into the bore hole to ease the drilling, and how the slurry will be collected and removed during the process; more details about the cofferdam that would be erected at the offshore end of the drilling bore; and more explanation of the size of the power cable that will be used.

He also said that the report lacks much detailed information about the environmental conditions in the near-shore ocean habitat, which he noted is critical to many local fishermen and also an area transited by endangered whales.

“I think this is a good start,” Mr. Bragman said of the company’s report. “My concern is that East Hampton has a history of very thorough environmental review, and that includes projects we support. A complete review process is the only thing that protects us in the future, and many of us in this room support offshore wind. We should avoid a process that resembles ‘Let’s Make A Deal.’”

Councilman David Lys also peppered the Deepwater representatives with questions about the drilling process and what limitations it might place on fishermen, as well as how the company would compensate fishermen if any part of the wind farm’s construction or operation causes them to lose income.

“If there is a need for compensation, let’s say for lost wages, I would like an independent arbitrator to determine what that compensation will be,” Mr. Lys said, and he proposed that a certain dollar amount of each kilowatt generated by the wind farm be dedicated to a fund for compensating fishermen for lost harvests.

With the town and the company clearly moving steadily toward a vote on the approval of the cable landing—Mr. Van Scoyoc has said previously that he hopes to be able to schedule a final public hearing on the proposal for later this month or early May and bring the issue to a vote not too long afterward—critics of the wind farm, primarily commercial fishermen and their advocates, continued to assail Deepwater Wind and the project as a whole and question the risk-reward balance of the wind farm in general.

“It’s a big money grab,” fisherman Chuck Morici said, nodding to Deepwater Wind’s hedge fund financial backing and connections to political players in the states it has brought applications in.

Bonnie Brady, the president of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association and the wife of a Montauk dragger captain, Dave Aripotch, said that before Rhode Island approved the Block Island Wind Farm it adopted a battery of laws into state law that mandated mitigation and compensation for any impacts on fishermen. New York has no such codified demands, she said, and the state government has shown little inclination to tighten the screws on wind farm developers as it pushes for more than 2,400 megawatts of offshore power to be developed. She pleaded with the town to help convince Deepwater to put off its schedule by a year to allow for a more detailed protocol of science and economic protections to be put in place.

“Do we do it now, or do we do it right?” she asked.

Some critics said the focus should be on considering building wind turbines—which are nearly 600 feet tall—on land rather than in the sea.

“On land at least you can count the dead birds when they fall—you can’t do that in the ocean,” said Larry Penny, the former director of the town’s Natural Resources Department.

In the end, opponents asked the town, however helpless it may be to stop the actual project, at least not smooth the path for it.

“It’s never too late, you’ve never sunk too much into it, you can always turn back,” said Dan Farnham, a fisherman. “Please don’t get caught up by a carrot they’re dangling, or trying to strong-arm us. This easement is our last local bargaining chip. Don’t trust that [the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management] or New York State are going to have the same standards that we do.”

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Why can't the windmills be installed off hither hills state park??? Cable run under the park and to the sub station there. They ran new primary cables to the station years ago. Why wainscott???
Sounds like the trustees have given up the ship, just trying to raise the anty... More money to spend, makes them feel good.
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Apr 4, 18 1:41 PM