Electric grid maintenance crews from PSEG-Long Island have become a common sight on East End roads this past spring, due to a FEMA-funded effort underway to strengthen our electric grid’s storm resilience.
But the one place those crews haven’t been seen yet is the Town of East Hampton, where PSEG-Long Island’s installation of a new transmission line just after the New Jersey company began managing the LIPA’s electric grid caused an uproar throughout town.
With work completed or underway on the $729 million project in nearly every other town on Long Island, PSEG-Long Island Director of External Affairs Christopher Hahn came to the East Hampton Town Board’s work session this Tuesday to explain the company’s plans for the town.
Mr. Hahn said there are seven mainline circuits that need to be upgraded in East Hampton Town, and work on each would take about 10 weeks. He said the project has not yet been engineered, but if PSEG-Long Island gets approval from the town to begin engineering, work could begin in late 2016 or early 2017 and would likely be completed by 2018.
Mr. Hahn said the work will not include any new transmission lines, and will not include the very tall transmission poles that were placed along a route from East Hampton Village to Amagansett two years ago.
“Seven of our circuits that are among the poorest in our system are in East Hampton,” he said, adding that the project will include newer poles that are about 3 inches wider in diameter and 3 to 5 feet taller than existing poles and stronger crossarms with a narrower profile that better withstands heavy winds.
He said the new poles are rated to withstand 130-mile-per-hour winds. All will be treated with a wood preservative, mostly Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA), which is used in most pressure-treated lumber, though some of the bigger poles will be treated with pentachlorophenol, also known as penta.
The use of penta on the poles in the maligned transmission project was a major bone of contention for East Hampton residents, who rallied in an attempt to block the use of penta for wood treatment as the project was underway.
“Untreated poles last 4.5 years, but treated poles last 40 years,” said Mr. Hahn. He added that penta has been used on telephone poles since 1995 and poles that are shorter than 45 feet are generally treated with CCA.
Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell asked if PSEG-Long Island had considered the use of composite utility poles, which are starting to be used in the midwest.
Mr. Hahn said that, given the time and funding constraints of the FEMA grant and the large-scale nature of the project, PSEG-Long Island has decided composite poles are not a good fit.
“Composite poles not in widescale use anywhere in this country,” he said. “To test them in this kind of project would be difficult. We need to do 1,000 miles on Long Island. We can’t test them here.”
Mr. Hahn said PSEG-Long Island will send mailings to customers along the route of the project two weeks before work begins, and will be responsive to property owners’ requests that new poles be placed in suitable locations. He said between 20 and 25 percent of the poles along the routes will be replaced.
He said the project will include new intelligent switches that allow repair workers to reroute circuits remotely when power goes out, allowing them to maintain power for as many customers as possible during repairs.
“Right now they require an operator to switch a switch,” he said. “This will help us maintain power in minor storms and restore power quicker in major storms like a Hurricane Sandy situation.”
“If there’s substantial objection, we don’t have to do this here,” he added. “We are doing it in every other town on Long Island. We could move up island if we need to. East Hampton always seems to be in the eye of the storm, and it’s very good for us to make sure we upgrade the system here.”
Mr. Hahn added that once PSEG-Long Island removes the electric wires from the old poles, they will remain involved with the site until all other utilities remove their lines from the old pole, and will remove the old poles as soon as possible.
“We know the kind of uproar that would create among your constituents,” he said. “We don’t want to leave you with that and we don’t want to hear that ourselves.”
More information on current and past PSEG-Long Island FEMA improvement projects is online here.