NSTAR received emergency permission from the Edgartown selectmen on Monday to replace a damaged submarine cable in the channel between Edgartown and Chappaquiddick. The cable failure caused a nine-hour power outage on Chappaquiddick in September.
The underwater cable normally has three wires to supply power to the small island, and right now Chappaquiddick is only operating on two. Divers found the failure occurred 45 feet from the shoreline, buried in the sea, and surmised a hole in the conduit the size of a pinky formed after the cable detached from the ocean floor.
NSTAR will lay a new conduit 10-feet below the channel, and construction is slated to begin next week. A transformer will be installed at the dock on Chappaquidick with minimal excavation and disturbance, and a new pole and manhole on Dock street.
“We’re looking to start the portion on Dock street and immediate portion on Chappaquiddick because we’re concerned with having another cable failure because of tidal flow,” NSTAR project manager Fred Slade told the selectmen at their weekly meeting. “We’re in urgent need to start the program.”
Chappaquiddick resident Alan Wilson asked about the streetlight on the pole set to come down, and Mr. Slade said NSTAR is in talks with the highway superintendent to put in a new light source.
A new conduit from NSTAR could mean the chance for Chappaquiddick residents to have cable television and Internet service, but Mr. Slade said the provider must have their own easement for a communication channel.
“I had a conversation with Verizon and Comcast. We’re willing to work with them but the way the existing easement works is for electric cables only,” Mr. Slade said. “Comcast and Verizon have to apply for their own easement and get the paperwork in on time, then we’re willing to do something.”
NSTAR also told the selectmen they hope to start another project this fall to replace above-ground poles with an underground conduit. Originally scheduled for the spring, the new line would reach 4,500 feet inland down Chappaquiddick Road up to Litchfield Road and would replace dilapidated poles. This project is not part of the emergency permission granted by the selectmen, and will go through a normal permitting process in November.
“It’d be great to have a pole down and be able to pull the ferries out at the ferry point,” Chappaquiddick Ferry captain Peter Wells said, asking if NSTAR could move the transformer and conduit more inland. “What you’re doing is wonderful and it’s a chance to make the best use of the public land. With the pole gone I could build a concrete ramp.”
In other business, selectmen approved a merit raise for town information technology director Adam Darack, praising him for his recent contributions during Hurricane Earl.
Selectmen also agreed to continue the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program for next year. Grant administrator Alice Boyd told the selectmen Edgartown had the largest home rehabilitation program in the state, working with families to fix drafty windows and doors, leaking roofs and other home improvement projects. The CDBG grant also allows for childcare subsidies and currently has 150 applications Islandwide.