New CL&P substation plan concerns town

A Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) plan for a new substation in Greenwich is causing some resident concerns.

The project is still in the planning stages, though, and CL&P must submit an application to and get approval from the Connecticut Siting Council and the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA). Before that even happens, a location has to be chosen, and that’s where residents are concerned. The exact location is unknown and various CL&P options, including placing it in Bruce Park, have not gone over well at all.

The substation is not expected to be ready for some time, however. According to CL&P, the current plan is to have a tentative idea of a location soon, allowing for it to go before town boards like the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency. If that proceeds and a location is found by working with the town, CL&P would then go before the siting council, an evaluation that is expected to take 12 months, going late into 2015. The substation would be able to proceed only if the state grants approval, and if that happens, the plan would be to have it operational in 2017.

CL&P spokesman Mitch Gross said the substation is being planned to meet customer demand for electricity.

At the Feb. 6 Board of Selectmen meeting, First Selectman Peter Tesei spoke about these efforts after a meeting between town staff and representatives from the utility.

“This is going to be a highly disruptive project,” Mr. Tesei said. “It may be warranted in what they project to be consumer demand for electricity, but it is going to involve the disruption of several neighborhoods from Cos Cob through central Greenwich. If you think about where the Sound Shore Drive location is and if you head west, they’re going to try and put in a conduit to carry forth to the new substation.”

Mr. Tesei admitted that the disruption could lead to a lack of options for what action he and other residents would accept from CL&P going forward.

“There are a finite number of ways to go,” Mr. Tesei said. “Clearly, I think we and our residents will have objection to probably most of them. Certain things are sacrosanct in my judgment. Coming through Bruce Park will be a very emotionally charged discussion, I think.”

CL&P spokesman Frank Poirot said discussions are ongoing with the town and no site has been chosen yet. He did not say whether the option of utilizing Bruce Park was still on the table, but he said options were being presented to receive feedback from town officials and the community.

“We’re working closely with the town over potential positions for a location review,” Mr. Poirot said. “It’s not a back-and-forth. It’s more of a cooperative search of locations which would make the most sense to locate this substation and provide a service to our customers.”

One idea Mr. Tesei did put forward was undergrounding wires and moving them out toward Route 1, but that is something the utility has resisted in the past because it is expensive to put electrical wires underground. There has long been a call for CL&P to move its wires underground to reduce the number of long-term power outages in town, but the utility has said that it would be cost-prohibitive to do a project like that in Greenwich.

Mr. Tesei acknowledged that that could lead to higher costs for CL&P, but said it could end up being “the better route.”

“I wanted to put this out there so it’s no surprise to anyone,” Mr. Tesei said. “It’s something we’ve been dealing with for a while, and it’s something we want to follow closely.”

Mr. Poirot didn’t get into the specifics of which sites were being considered by the utility except to say that right now the utility was getting the feedback it was looking for from town government and residents.

“We didn’t think that we were going to just put our first ideas out there and they would be embraced without discussion,” Mr. Poirot said. “Obviously Greenwich is a very populated and densely built upon community, so this is a process and there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for discussion on this. It’s important for us to be working with the town as part of this.”


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