Cross-Sound cable angers city

Elm City officials hope to prevent New York from leeching off New England’s power grid.

The Connecticut Siting Council will begin reviewing a proposal today by the Cross-Sound Cable Co. to lay an electrical cable between New Haven and Brookhaven, N.Y., on Long Island. But the idea, which calls for the connection of the two power grids, is drawing opposition from city officials.

The proposal calls for laying the cable beneath the New Haven Navigation Channel, where the company said it would pose no danger to shellfish. The Siting Council rejected an alternate placement in March by a 7-1 vote because the cable could have harmed shellfish beds.

The New Haven Board of Aldermen passed a resolution opposing the cable on Oct. 15. According to the resolution, operation of the cable would tax Connecticut for New York’s poor energy planning. The larger energy market would also increase utility rates as local power stations produce more electricity to send to Long Island.

The placement of the cable under the shipping channel could also raise safety issues. Alderman John Halle said that Long Island Sound boat pilots sometimes drop anchor in the shipping channel, which could damage the steel-armored cable. Cross-Sound Cable plans to bury the cable six feet below the seabed.

The 24-mile cable would carry direct current, converted to alternating current on each end by the proposed terminals. The New York site has already gained approval. New Haven’s terminal would lie adjacent to the United Illuminating substation on Waterfront Street.

Despite the changes, local oyster fishermen still fear harm to the Long Island Sound’s fragile shellfish beds.

“This revised proposal still will impact some of our oyster beds because of the cable’s electromagnetic field,” said Barbara Gordon, a Connecticut Seafood Council representative.

According to Cross-Sound Cable’s application, the two-way cable will alternate the transmission of electricity between New England and Long Island, depending on which power grid requires more energy.

“It provides an opportunity when there is an emergency situation to keep the lights on,” said Rita Bowlby, a Cross-Sound Cable spokeswoman.

Bowlby said that because biotechnology companies require a particularly large supply of electricity, New Haven would benefit from the infrastructure improvement. She added that the project would also provide a tax base for New Haven.

“If it stabilizes energy sources and makes energy available, then that’s something that we need to look into,” said Tony Rescigno, president of the New Haven Chamber of Commerce.

Halle, who co-sponsored the Board of Alderman’s resolution, said that the biotech industry’s impact on the Elm City’s future pales in comparison to the waterfront’s value.

“New Haven Harbor is an underutilized resource that will drive the New Haven economy in the future,” Halle said.

The city holds intervener status to call witnesses before the Siting Council and has hired a lawyer with expertise in environmental cases. Hearings are expected to conclude on Friday.

“We are cautiously optimistic about the results,” Bowlby said. “We feel that we offer New Haven a good plan to improve its energy infrastructure.”

Despite local opposition to the cable, President George W. Bush’s ’68 National Energy Policy, released in May, opposes state rejections of interstate energy projects, such as the Siting Council’s March ruling.

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