Proposed pipeline posing problems

KEARNY –

The Town of Kearny and the state’s biggest utility may be going to war over a dispute involving the routing of a power transmission line through two town recreation areas.

“I am strongly opposing Harrison Crossing,” asserted Third Ward Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle at last Tuesday’s meeting of the municipal governing body.

Doyle was referring to the “69kV Harrison Crossing Project,” which, according to documents filed with the town in March 2016 by PSEG’s engineering consultants Wood Group Mustang, is part of an overall plan “… to reinforce, upgrade and in some cases replace [the utility’s] electric infrastructure to keep up with the actual and increasing power demand” in the region.

This particular project would be “to install two new circuits across the Passaic River area by a proposed 36-inch diameter steel conduit … using state-of-the-art horizontal directional drilling method.

The line would stretch 1,120 feet, from the foot of Chester Ave. in Newark to the tip of Afton St. in Kearny, and would “reach approximately 25 feet below the mud line at the middle of the river.”

The documents on file with the town explain neither where the line would connect to, from its Kearny location, nor how the new line would improve service in the area.  

Marine traffic is not expected to be impacted by the project.

The “drill exit” or easterly end point would comprise a 1.75-acre tract extending 850 feet northeast from the edge of Passaic Ave. across the street to the foot of what is commonly known as Bunny Hill, where “construction activities” including “clearing and grading of temporary work space, security fencing and lighting, setup of [material] laydown area, protection of above-ground structures and access roads” would occur.

At this site, the utility proposes to set up a metal casing containing new electrical conduits and cables. During construction, ground openings would be covered by steel plates overnight.

Proposed work hours would be 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, with any work to be done Saturday or Sunday to be approved in advance by the town.

Local traffic “may be impacted” during construction hours; however, access roads to adjacent properties “are to remain open at all times.”

Where needed, environmental controls will be implemented to protect the work site’s integrity.

An eight- to nine-month construction schedule is anticipated for the project.

PSE&G will have to secure prior approvals for the project from federal, state, county and local regulatory agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries, N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, N.J. Meadowlands Commission and Hudson-Essex & Passaic Soil Conservation District.

Last week, Mayor Alberto Santos echoed Doyle’s concern, saying that the proposed underwater transmission line would exit “on the grounds of the old Soldiers’ Home, under which there is a network of tunnels.”

Kearny resident/author William Styple, who has written extensively on the Civil War and how Kearny figured in the conflict, described this infrastructure as water tunnels designed for rainwater runoff. “They were maybe 3 ½ feet tall so you can’t walk upright in them,” he said. After the Home was shuttered, kids would play in them until they got sealed up, he added.

That facility, Santos noted, housed a total of 25,000 veterans over the years, since the end of the Civil War until its closure and demolition so “the idea of Public Service coming in and disturbing that history” he finds upsetting.

Doyle said that on the basis of what she’s learned about the project, the pipeline would “cross through our Futsol soccer field – which we just had redone – across the street to Afton and Passaic and then hits Bunny Hill where they want to put up some kind of metal structure with electric wires and transformers sticking out of the ground. But the deed for that property says it’s only to be used for recreation. Kearny gets no benefit from this. There has to be another way to get the job done without disrupting our recreation areas. We’re going to fight it.”

Meanwhile, it appears that PSE&G has a similar project in the wings, with a Kearny-Jersey City underwater link.

In July 2016, the utility advised the town it has applied to the N.J. DEP’s Division of Land Use Regulation for a waterfront development permit in support of the “Kearny-Jersey City 69kV Hackensack River Underground Crossing.”

This project is described as “part of a 69 kV statewide initiative by PSE&G” to meet its current and future electrical service demands and to “be better prepared for Sandy-like storms and to “increase PSE&G’s system capacity in the Kearny area.”

Under a “preferred alternative” plan, again using horizontal directional drilling, the utility would install two underwater circuits within a 48-inch steel casing, 50 feet below the river bottom, between PSE&G’s facility on Pennsylvania Ave. in Kearny and the foot of Duncan Ave. in Jersey City, stretching nearly 1,700 feet across the Hackensack.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.