Trustees Debate Deepwater Wind Proposal

On the heels of having received Deepwater Wind’s environmental and permitting assessments of its proposed 15-turbine offshore wind farm and transmission cable, the East Hampton Town Trustees agreed on Monday to ask the town board for an environmental review of the project, while two of the nine-member panel expressed adamant opposition to the project.

Rick Drew, a deputy clerk of the trustees and member of its harbor management committee, which has hosted numerous meetings with Deepwater Wind and commercial fishermen, who  have expressed almost unanimous opposition to the project, said, “Everyone’s just starting to review the document. I think we’ll have a lot more to talk about at the next meeting.” 

John Aldred, who was elected a trustee in November, suggested that his colleagues ask the town board for the environmental review. “They have professional departments that do this kind of thing,” he said, referring to the  Natural Resources and Planning Departments. Those departments “are better equipped to assess” the proposed wind farm’s parameters,” he said. “A local environmental review would be a very helpful perspective on the project and ensure that a more thorough look is given.”  

The Rhode Island wind farm developer has identified Beach Lane in Wainscott as the preferred landing site for the transmission cable, which would require an easement from the trustees, who have jurisdiction over most of the town’s beaches, waterways, and bottomlands, excluding those in Montauk. 

“It is possible that, if some form of an easement or lease is granted, there may not be the same level of review done by a non-local agency. There is a risk to not having a local review done,” Mr. Drew said. “We’d be remiss in not putting this through the same standard of review that any other applicant would abide by,” Jim Grimes, another trustee, said. 

Mr. Aldred referred to a process under the state’s Public Service Law for reviewing applications to construct and operate major electric transmission or fuel gas transmission facilities. Last month, the trustees announced that they would file for intervener status under the law, known as Article VII, and retain counsel to represent the community before the Public Service Commission.

Mr. Grimes moved for the trustees to send a letter to the town board asking that it direct the Natural Resources Department to conduct a review of the South Fork Wind Farm. “Add planning to that,” Mr. Aldred said. 

The body unanimously approved the motion, but not before Dell Cullum, another first-term trustee, spoke at length against the wind farm. “As much as I would hope that an environmental study would be done in anything that is going to, by chance, harm our environment, I would be much happier if the trustees would just deny these people the easement . . . and let’s get on with business. I don’t like the idea of industrializing our oceans,” he said.

Deepwater Wind officials have implied that the company would seek a transmission cable landing on state-owned land on Napeague should the trustees deny an easement on the ocean beach in Wainscott.

 “Regardless of how we feel individually,” Mr. Aldred said, “I think we all recognize that it probably will come ashore somewhere. . . . If we can push a local environmental review, even if it comes ashore in Napeague . . . it’s the same beach, it’s the same ocean.” 

Mr. Cullum was not convinced. “I’m not giving in that it is going to come ashore. I’d like to see it stopped. Period,” he said. Calling for a vote, he and Susan Vorpahl, also a first-term trustee, raised their hands in opposition to the wind farm. 

In other action at the meeting, the trustees reauthorized the oyster garden program in which individuals and families grow oysters in designated areas of town waters. Launched in 2016 in Three Mile Harbor and expanded last year to Hog Creek, the trustees voted to add Accabonac Harbor to the popular program. The latter site is contingent on public notice in the trustees’ newspaper of record, The Star, which is expected in next week’s issue. 

The 60-by-70-foot Three Mile Harbor site will accommodate up to 40 gardeners, while the Hog Creek and Accabonac sites will be 30 by 70 feet and available for up to 20 gardeners. The town’s shellfish hatchery will administer the sites. 

Modeled on what is known as SPAT, a Cornell Cooperative Extension initiative in waters off Southold, the program allows individuals to harvest half the 1,000 oysters seeded. The cost, approximately $250 per participant, includes gear and instruction in addition to the oysters. 

Demand may exceed capacity at the three sites, Mr. Drew said on Tuesday, and those interested in participating have been advised to contact the hatchery or the trustees’ office.