Fireworks occur before Block Island wind option is given go ahead

Fireworks occur before Block Island wind option is given go ahead

The Westerly Sun

What was supposed to be a simple sign-off on an option agreement in Block Island late last month turned into a contentious back-and-forth between First Warden Kim Gaffett and Town Councilor Chris Warfel over the Deepwater Wind project.

Warfel read a prepared statement filled with words and phrases such as “collusion,” “half-rate assessment,” “foolish to pursue,” “tarnishing the viewshed,” “Wall Street” and “ignorant actions,” leveled primarily at Gaffett and the town. He also said that Block Island could have come up with a better “intelligent power” alternative than the wind-farm project.

“I disagree with those statements that were read into the record,” said Cliff McGinnes, co-owner of the Block Island Power Co. “That’s individual comments. That’s the way an individual has the right to feel. But, I don’t feel that it represents all of the majority of taxpayers on Block Island.”

“I agree with those sentiments,” said Gaffett, referring to what McGinnes said, not Warfel’s comments.

Gaffett then made a motion to authorize signing of the Deepwater Wind option agreement, and Councilor Norris Pike seconded the motion.

The Town Council agreed 4-to-1, with Warfel dissenting, to assign its joint option agreement with Deepwater Wind for the BITS component (Block Island Transmission System) of the Block Island wind farm project to National Grid at a noon meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 25. Under the terms of their option agreement Deepwater Wind sent “written notice” to the town prior to the meeting expressing interest in exercising the option.

In the Nov. 10 written notice from project manager Bryan Wilson to the Town Council, Wilson referenced Section 9 of the option agreement: “Further to our conversation, Deepwater hereby requests the Town’s consent to assign the Option to the Narragansett Electric Company d/b/a National Grid, a Rhode Island corporation.”

The option was supposed to have been signed at the last Town Council meeting on Nov. 19, but the council wanted its lawyers to fully vet the agreement to ensure protections of the “fiber use” stated in the agreement.

“Both lawyers agree that our interests are completely protected,” said Gaffett. “Most of it had to do with ‘use’ protection — to make sure we [the Town of New Shoreham] were protected.”

After the vote, Warfel bolted from the room.

“This is great,” said Wilson during an interview with The Block Island Times. “We’re moving forward with the project. The project is under construction. Soon we will be ordering the cable.”

In language from the Aug. 29, 2012, option agreement executed between Deepwater Wind and the town, for $1,000 the town granted Deepwater Wind Block Island Transmission LLC the non-exclusive option to acquire certain temporary and permanent easements.

In exercising the option, the town and Deepwater Wind have allowed National Grid access to the “easement area” for the purpose of accessing infrastructure including underground electrical cables and associated facilities, including transmission lines, underground duct banks, and one manhole to connect the Block Island Transmission System with the mainland.

In simpler terms, and for all that is defined legally within the agreement, the option acknowledges that Deepwater Wind, and more specifically National Grid, are moving forward with the wind farm project and beginning the process of installing the cable.

The cable will be laid beneath three miles of state waters and eight miles of federal waters.


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