CSC: Cross Sound Docket 208 Opinion

DOCKET NO. 208 - Cross-Sound Cable Company, LLC application for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) submarine electric transmission and fiber optic cable system from One Waterfront Street, New Haven, Connecticut to Brookhaven, New York. 

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Connecticut Siting
Council

January 3, 2002

Opinion

On July 24, 2001, Cross-Sound Cable Company, LLC (CSCC) applied to the Connecticut Siting Council (Council) for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (Certificate) for the construction, maintenance, and operation of a high voltage direct current (HVDC) submarine electric transmission and fiber optic cable system.  CSCC also filed with the Council a petition for a declaratory ruling that no Certificate is required for the construction, maintenance, and operation of an electric converter substation and interconnection located at One Waterfront Street, New Haven, Connecticut (Petition 522).

Parties and Intervenors to these proceedings include the applicant, State Representative Stephen D. Dargan, City of New Haven (CNH), Wisvest-Connecticut LLC (Wisvest), Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC), Connecticut Light and Power Company (CL&P), Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (AG), State Representative Robert W. Megna, State Senator Toni Nathaniel Harp, Save the Sound, Inc., Connecticut Commercial Lobstermen's Association (CCLA), and Ben's Shellfish.  These parties and Intervenors are concerned that the proposed cable system could affect fish and shellfish resources, navigation, air and water quality, the price and supply of electricity, and the quality of life in the Morris Cove section of New Haven.  The Council takes these concerns very seriously.  We believe that many of these concerns can be addressed through the thoughtful implementation of a detailed Development and Management (D&M) Plan, which the Council will require prior to commencement of construction or installation.

CSCC proposes to install an approximately 24-mile underground, bi-directional, HVDC electric transmission line that would interconnect the electric systems of both New England and New York and allow for the transfer of up to approximately 330 MW of electricity to or from Long Island.  The Council recognizes the value of interregional cooperation and interconnections between regions.  We believe that the proposed project would enhance the inter-regional electric transmission infrastructure and improve the reliability and efficiencies of the electric system here in Connecticut as well as in New York.  While the benefits of this proposed cable system may not be equal at this time, recent events have demonstrated that preparedness and cooperation are in the best interest of the State, region, and the nation.

The export of electricity to Long Island would increase the demand for electricity in New England; however, it is unknown what effect this may have on the wholesale price of electricity in New England because prices are affected by numerous factors including projected load, available generation capacity, outages, and transmission capability.  We believe that an open competitive market for electricity, enhanced by the increased capability for trade, will result in increased private investment in infrastructure, and lower electricity costs for the region.

CSCC also proposed an alternate upland cable route that would have made landfall at Lighthouse Point Park and proceeded to the proposed substation site through City streets and park lands.  The alternative upland cable route would result in greater disruption of public facilities, streets, park land, and neighborhoods; impact wetlands, the shoreline, and the public boat launch; take longer to construct; and cost more to CSCC than the proposed submarine cable route.
A serious concern to the Council, the City of New Haven, and the Harbor Pilots is the placement of the proposed cable system within the Federal Navigation Channel (FNC) in New Haven Harbor.  The FNC is critically important to waterborne traffic that uses New Haven Harbor because it allows large vessels access to the port.  The port at New Haven is Connecticut's largest and most active, and provides economic benefits to New Haven and Connecticut.  The port at New Haven is also strategically important for fuel delivery; so much so, that the Coast Guard has restricted foreign flag vessels to daylight operation in Long Island Sound.  We believe that the proposed cable system will not adversely affect the FNC, and that the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) will only allow CSCC to install the proposed cable system within the FNC, if they are confident that the cable system will not adversely impact their ability to maintain the channel, or for vessels to operate safely within it.  Consequently, we will require that CSCC provide the Council with a copy of all decisions issued by the ACOE and all other regulatory agencies prior to the commencement of installation of the proposed cable system.

The Harbor Pilots that use the FNC in New Haven Harbor also expressed concern that the proposed cable system could be inadvertently damaged by an emergency anchor drop, or could affect plans to widen or deepen the FNC.  CSCC has stated that they would work cooperatively with the ACOE to accommodate the future development of the FNC.  CSCC would also indemnify and hold harmless any mariner who damages the proposed cable system as a result of an anchor drop, provided the damage was not malicious or intentional, and the ACOE and their contractors from damage to the proposed cable system within the FNC resulting from dredging activities.  While it is possible that an anchor or other equipment could damage the cable system, CSCC is confident that the proposed minimum burial depth of six feet will adequately protect the cable system.  Most importantly, we believe that there would be no risk of injury to mariners, nor would the cable system impede the anchor's ability to stop a vessel.  However, a damaged cable could not operate and would affect transmission reliability.  Therefore, we will direct CSCC to prepare detailed as-built drawings depicting the proposed cable system's location and depth.  These as-built drawings would be completed and provided to the ACOE and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration for inclusion on navigation charts.  The Council will also order CSCC to include provisions for the protection of the cable system within the FNC in the D&M Plan.

CSCC proposed installing a second HVDC cable system within the FNC, approximately 30 feet from the proposed cable system, at a depth of approximately 41 feet below mean low water to minimize future effects on the environment.  Installing a second cable system within the FNC may be ill-advised at this time because there is no guarantee that CSCC would proceed with another cross-sound cable project from New Haven.  Furthermore, a second cable system within the FNC could make maintenance dredging more difficult, and may have to be relocated to accommodate future deepening of the FNC.  However, CSCC may install a high density polyethylene conduit from the landfall location to the FNC for a second cable system provided CSCC acknowledges that in no way would it predispose the Council's decision for a second cable system.

On March 28, 2001, the Council denied without prejudice an application by TransÉnergie for a Certificate for the construction, maintenance, and operation of an HVDC submarine electric transmission and fiber optic cable system from New Haven to Long Island.  The reason for the denial of the application was based, in part, on the Council's concern that the installation of the proposed cable system would result in unacceptable impacts to existing shellfish resources and the benthic habitat within New Haven Harbor.

 The proposed submarine cable route is significantly different than the previous route.  Although the proposed cable system route traverses New Haven Harbor and leased shellfish beds located within the limits of the FNC, the shellfish beds within the FNC are not actively cultivated because of routine maintenance dredging and the absence of clean substrate on the channel bottom.  Furthermore, the majority of the suspended sediment resulting from the cable installation would be deposited within the confines of the FNC.  There is a shellfish bed located southeast of the eastern breakwater that would be traversed by the proposed cable system, and may experience sedimentation in excess of ten millimeters.  Approximately 700 feet of this shellfish bed will be impacted, but we believe that CSCC has effectively addressed the Council's concerns to minimize impacts to shellfish resources to the maximum extent possible.  Relocating the proposed cable system route from the shoals area in New Haven Harbor to the FNC will result in substantially less impact to important shellfish seed beds.

The proposed HVDC cable system would increase the temperature of the sediment directly above the proposed submarine cable system by approximately 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit and impart a DC magnetic field on the environment; however, evidence in this record does not support the contention that the projected temperature increase attributed to the proposed cable system would cause the development of shellfish diseases and parasites, such as MSX and Dermo, or have an adverse effect on shellfish spawning.

The Council is confident that there would be minimal impact to shellfish resources.  Indeed, CSCC has committed to the successful restoration of the benthic profile and refurbishment of the oyster culch bottom within the proposed installation trench along portions of the proposed route that traverse shellfish beds located outside of the FNC.  CSCC has also committed to work with shellfish lease bed holders, the DABA, and the Soundkeeper to develop, implement, and monitor a successful shellfish bed refurbishment program.  We believe that these measures are appropriate and will serve to mitigate any long-lasting effects to the shellfish beds.  We will require CSCC to undertake pre-construction and post-construction survey of the benthic community, and incorporate a shellfish bed restoration plan in the D&M Plan.

Installation of the proposed cable system could impact shipping within New Haven Harbor; however, the impact on shipping would be limited, and could be minimized by coordinating with the Coast Guard, and scheduling the cable installation for off-peak periods.  Therefore, we will direct CSCC to schedule the installation of the proposed cable system during off-peak hours, and to coordinate with the Coast Guard and the New Haven Harbor Pilots to avoid significant interference with ship traffic.  Additionally, we will require the applicant to notify the commercial fishing community and governmental agencies of the proposed installation schedule, and that its exact location be identified.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has reviewed the proposed project and has provided recommendations to the ACOE.  Likewise, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Office of Long Island Sound Programs is also reviewing the project.  These agencies have expertise in the management of fish and shellfish resources in New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound.  We believe that these agencies will only permit the installation of the proposed cable system in such a manner that will safeguard these important environmental resources.  Therefore, we will defer to these agencies on the matter of establishing an acceptable installation window for the proposed in-water construction; however, CSCC will be required to obtain approval from the Council for the proposed schedule through the D&M Plan.

The CCLA was concerned about potential adverse effects the proposed cable system would have on lobster migration in Long Island Sound.  We believe that lobsters in Long Island Sound would be unaffected by the temporary increase in suspended sediment resulting from the proposed jetting operation because they are mobile and naturally occur in turbid areas.  Furthermore, neither the proposed cable trench nor the projected increase in DC magnetic fields would affect lobster migration within Long Island Sound.

No federally listed or proposed, threatened and endangered species under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are known to occur in the immediate vicinity of the proposed project area.  Federally listed threatened Piping plovers and endangered Roseate terns are present at Sandy Point and Falkner Island, respectively; however, the proposed work should have no effect on these species. Long Island Sound is also home to marine turtles that are listed as State or Federal Endangered or Threatened Species, according to the Connecticut DEP and the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service.  Although the proposed installation schedule may overlap the time period that marine turtles may be found in Long Island Sound, they are mobile and should be able to avoid the jet-plow.  Consequently, we do not believe there would be any adverse impact to these species.

Electric and magnetic fields (EMF) and their possible effects are also a concern to the Council.  The proposed cable system would not produce alternating current (AC) electric or magnetic fields typically produced by 60Hz AC electric transmission lines, nor would there be an increase in DC electric field levels at the surface of the soil or sediment because of shielding by the overlying sediment.  The maximum projected increase in DC magnetic field levels produced by the proposed cable system would diminish with distance, and would be too weak to pose any risk to public health, marine species, or magnetic navigation equipment. The State of Connecticut has not established standards for exposure to electric, and/or magnetic fields, and there is no evidence for the Council to conclude that the proposed cable system would be hazardous to persons, wildlife, or property along the proposed cable system route.  To confirm the predicted change in DC EMF levels, the Council will order CSCC to incorporate a post-construction monitoring plan for DC EMF levels in the D&M Plan.

Based on its record in this proceeding, the Council finds that the effects associated with the construction, operation, and maintenance of a HVDC submarine electric transmission and fiber optic cable system from New Haven, Connecticut to Brookhaven, New York, including effects on the natural environment; ecological integrity and balance; forests and parks; scenic, historic, and recreational values; air and water purity; fish and wildlife; and public health and safety are not disproportionate either alone or cumulatively with other effects when compared to benefit, are not in conflict with the policies of the State concerning such effects, and are not sufficient reason to deny the application.  Therefore, the Council will issue a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a HVDC submarine electric transmission and fiber optic cable system from One Waterfront Street, New Haven, Connecticut to Brookhaven, New York along the proposed submarine route.  The Council will deny certification of the proposed alternate upland cable route.

To ensure that the proposed project is properly developed, we will require CSCC to submit a D&M Plan which will include provisions for a detailed site plan; an erosion and sediment control plan, consistent with the Connecticut Guidelines for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control as amended; provisions for cable protection within New Haven Harbor; provisions for indemnification for damage to the cable system; a plan for a pre-construction and post-construction survey of the benthic community; a post-construction DC EMF monitoring plan; a shellfish restoration plan; independent monitoring of the cable system installation; cooperation and notification requirements with the ACOE, the Coast Guard, and the commercial fishing community; and post-construction mapping and reporting requirements.



Content Last Modified on 10/9/2002 12:57:28 PM