The burying of new higher-voltage retransmission power lines along a five-mile stretch between Port Washington and Great Neck is still a possibility, but it won’t happen anytime soon. And it certainly won’t happen before or in lieu of the completion of the installation of 80-ft. utility poles this summer.
“We’ve absolutely committed to undergrounding the project, completely and wholly,” PSEG spokesperson Jeffrey Weir said, “as long as the Town of North Hempstead is willing to pay for it; it hasn’t progressed thus far yet to my knowledge.”
The entire project, which consists of the stringing of a new 69kV transmission line atop new 80-plus ft. utility poles, dates back to early 2013. It however “was not a response to Hurricane Sandy” but one of reliability according to Weir.
Village officials expressed some skepticism “I think the main thing the village is concerned about is the aesthetics of the poles going in on the state property that borders our village along Northern Boulevard and the alternatives to putting in larger poles as far as the reliability that PSEG is discussing,” said Munsey Park Village Mayor Frank DeMento. “I don’t think they have been transparent enough for me to comment whether there is necessity for the entire project with regard to reliability. PSEG hasn’t stated what the impetus was besides a greater need for infrastructure after Sandy and a greater need for higher capacity but I don’t know if that’s true.”
The project was initially started under an arrangement between National Grid and the Long Island Power Authority, which PSEG inherited with its takeover of the utility grid on Jan. 1. The older poles only carried a distribution line – a lower powered, 13kV line to homes – but the taller poles will support a 69 kV transmission line at the very top with the older distribution line in the middle support area.
“Given demand, we needed to add another 69kV transmission line to ensure that everyone would have electric power and that was reliable and consistent,” Weir said, adding that specific portions of the project related to being able to sustain a Sandy-like storm have to do with the length of the poles – each 85-ft. in total length but only protruding about 75-ft. out of the ground, with the remainder below grade incased in an anchor – and being able to withstand 130 mph winds.
“I really just think they’re higher because they would be able to withstand a storm better,” DeMento said, noting that many of his residents’ chief complaints are simply the aesthetic look of the higher poles.
Spanning six miles, only five miles of the project will be placed overhead utilizing 220 new poles – each about 80 ft. tall – with one mile of the project’s cable being laid underground within the village of Thomaston at the approximate location of Bayview and Community Drive, near a substation. That notion has many residents upset that the entire project wasn’t initially buried.
“I think it’s something that the village desires, I think it’s something that everybody in the Town of North Hempstead desires – they’re being buried in certain sections and not being buried in other sections,” DeMento said, noting that information he received indicated that even if the lines were buried in his municipality, poles would still have to be in place for other utility companies.
“What I was told about burying the lines was almost ‘be careful what you wish for’ because they would have to put in… large towers wherever the lines go into the ground and wherever the lines come out of the ground,” he said. “Also since it’s state property that the poles are on now we’d actually have to go through Munsey Park (residential property) if we wanted to bury the cables in Munsey Park, which would mean ripping up the street.”
“The portion that’s going underground has everything to do with the nature of the project and how it can be engineered,” Weir said of the circumstances in Thomaston. “The way the requirements of the line there don’t actually allow it to be gone overhead simply because of the size of the street and the way the poles go in and that type of thing; it’s just not possible to engineer it to go overhead there.”
Weir said residents should not be concerned over any electromagnetic field emissions as “they almost cancel each other out… often times when you put a higher voltage on there can cancel out any additional emissions that may have been by having the 13kV below that and so it does not increase the EMF to a degree that is harmful in any degree, shape or form and in fact can lessen the amount” and that more EMF fields were generated by a hairdryer than the new lines.
(Next Week: What happens to the existing poles and wires?)