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Greenport awaits DEC commissioner ruling in lead agency dispute with LIPA over Shelter Island cable plan

Fifth Street in Greenport looking toward the bay. Photo: Google maps

Whether the Village of Greenport or LIPA will control environmental review of the utility’s plan to run a power cable from Greenport to Shelter Island will be determined “soon” by the state DEC commissioner, a spokesperson for the agency said last week.

The village board in August declared “lead agency” status under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which would give it control of the review process and entitle the board to determine the extent and depth of the review.

But LIPA, whose contractor PSE&G would undertake the project, has also requested lead agency status.

By law, the decision in case of a lead agency dispute rests with the DEC commissioner, who has 20 days to make a decision in the dispute after all required information has been submitted.

“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has just received all of the necessary information and is working on its determination in this matter. DEC expects that the determination will be issued soon,” according to a statement provided Oct. 18 by Erica Ringewald, director of the DEC’s office media relations in Albany.

At Thursday’s village board meeting, village attorney Joseph Prokop told board members he believes LIPA did not comply with proper procedure and also made a number of “factual mistakes” in their submission to the DEC.

LIPA’s response was filed Oct. 11, Prokop said, so the DEC should make a decision by Oct. 31.

“In the meantime,” Prokop noted, “LIPA has made submissions to other agencies, including a request for a permit to the Army Corps of Engineers,” he said.

“No other agency should act on anything till lead agency and SEQRA is taken care of,” Prokop said. “It’s a requirement of New York State Law and I have pointed that out to every agency.”

John Winkler, a resident on Fifth Street, which will excavated for cable project, asked on Thursday whether the village “still has final say even if we lose lead agency.” Fifth Street residents were very upset by the proposal and have repeatedly voiced their opposition to board members.

“As far as the project moving forward, the village has absolute final say,” Prokop replied. “They need an easement from the village.” He noted that the utility and the village disagreed, at least initially, over whether LIPA would also need a wetlands permit from the village.

“We’re reviewing that with LIPA,” Prokop said.

“If the village does not get lead agency status, we are still an involved agency, so we will be involved in the SEQRA process” and still have the opportunity to respond, the village attorney said.

Winkler expressed concern about the approach of the winter season and whether cold winter will mean “this project will go into spring or summer.”

Christian McShea, a Fifth Street resident who has been a vocal opponent of the Greenport-to-Shelter-Island feeder cable renewed his opposition at Thursday’s meeting.

“Just get it off Fifth Street,” he told the board, suggesting the board look into alternative routes.

He lamented that the board did not have “more sensitivity” about the issue.

“I just feel like a great injustice is happening here,” McShea said.

Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.