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County officials finalizing $30M plan to connect Island Park, Bay Park plants

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On Jan. 27, the Nassau County Legislature took steps towad finalizing an agreement with the Long Island Power Authority and PSEG Long Island to spend $30 million on a power line that will stretch from the E.F. Barrett Generation Station in Island Park to the Bay Park Water Reclamation Facility.

The line will send feeder cables from Island Park, which will enable the Bay Park plant to use less diesel fuel, and will also facilitate the upcoming $408 million Bay Park Conveyance Project. That plan will send treated effluent from the Bay Park plant to an ocean outfall pipe at the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant, in Wantagh, using a 100-year-old aqueduct beneath Sunrise Highway.

“The plan can’t really happen under the current energy consumption setup at Bay Park,” Brian Schneider, the deputy county executive for parks and public works, told the Herald in November, “so we need this additional power from PSEG.”

The cost of connecting the Barrett plant to the Bay Park facility will be federally funded by the Hurricane Sandy Repair and Mitigation Capital Plan. Calls requesting comment from county and LIPA representatives about the timeline and other details of the project were not returned at press time. A PSEG representative told the Herald on Monday that inquiries should be directed to LIPA, but confirmed the deal was being finalized.

After the agreement is reached, LIPA will conduct an impact study and then a facilities study to estimate and specify equipment, engineering and construction costs. After that, the parties will come to an interconnection agreement for the electrical linking of the county’s plant with LIPA’s electric transmission distribution system.

The Bay Park plant is operated by Suez Water and has eight dual-fuel generators that can run on diesel or natural gas. Plant operators have attempted to burn as little diesel as possible, and the facility’s generators were rebuilt in 2016 with the goal of using less diesel, officials said. “At the end of all of this construction,” Schneider said in November, “hopefully these diesel generators will no longer be necessary.”

He added that the conveyance project could not happen without connecting Bay Park to Island Park. “The plan can’t really happen under the current energy consumption setup at Bay Park,” Schneider said. “So we need this additional power from PSEG.”

The conveyance project will end the discharge of an estimated 19 billion gallons of treated wastewater into the Western Bays each year, which will help rejuvenate marshlands that are vital to protecting coastal communities from storm damage. The Bay Park plant, built in 1941, serves 500,000 residents, discharging an average of 52 million gallons of treated effluent into Reynolds Channel per day. Nitrogen from the wastewater impacts nearly 10,000 acres of water and tidal marshland in the Western Bays, from Atlantic Beach to Point Lookout. Design plans for the project are under review, Schneider said.

The conveyance project is slated for completion by mid-2024, and PSEG will be tasked with designing and constructing the connection between the two plants. The Barrett plant, on a 127-acre property south of Daly Boulevard and west of the Barnum Island bridge, comprises two steam units primarily fueled by natural gas that began operating in 1956 and 1963, as well as 11 combustion turbines.

The agreement on the connection comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last month that the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation had passed a measure that would reduce air pollution by regulating emissions from peak-use power plants, including the Barrett facility.

“New York is once again taking aggressive action to protect public health and combat climate change,” Cuomo said in a statement. “These restrictions on dirty and inefficient power plants will improve air quality in overburdened communities, and spur investments in the clean energy economy.”

The regulation establishes lower thresholds for emissions of nitrogen oxides, which create harmful levels of ozone, or smog, on hot summer days. Dozens of plants across the state, including Barrett, are approaching or over 50 years old, and emit at least 30 times more nitrogen oxide than newer facilities.

At the Jan. 27 meeting, county officials did not discuss the proposed settlement with LIPA to cut the utility’s tax payments on the Barrett plant in half over seven years, which will increase taxes for Island Park residents.  The settlement also waives more than $250 million in tax refunds that the county would otherwise owe LIPA, according to utility officials, but many residents have expressed their displeasure with the proposed agreement.

At a Jan. 15 meeting at Lincoln Orens Middle School, residents were invited to speak to county and LIPA officials, and many voiced frustration over the potential settlement, but County Executive Laura Curran said it was a necessary measure.

“There is no ideal outcome for this problem that we’re facing,” Curran told residents. “The settlement is the best-possible, common-sense scenario to the facts that we are facing. It protects the Island Park schools from paying immediate, devastating tax hikes, and at the same time it protects all of Nassau County taxpayers, including Island Park residents, from a $250 million-plus liability.”