Chappy power supply repairs underway

Edgartown officials and the electric utility NSTAR are at work to repair a failed component in the underwater cable that supplies electrical power to Chappaquiddick, the small island connected to Edgartown only by a three-vehicle ferry.

Several weeks ago, one of the three high-capacity electrical wires that carry power from Edgartown to Chappy failed. The two remaining wires can handle the load at this time of year, when many summer residents have already left Chappaquiddick. The only exception is the fire station. The station ran on generators for some time. It was then reconfigured temporarily to run on the available power supply.

“Plans are underway to replace the existing submarine cable with two new cables,” NSTAR spokesman Mike Durand said. “We’re currently out to bid on the first part of the job, which will be the installation of new conduits under the channel. Once that’s complete, the new cables will be run through the conduits and connected.”

At Monday’s selectmen’s meeting, town administrator Pam Dolby said the town is working to expedite the project, but NSTAR will still need to secure a permit from the conservation commission and may need approval from other town boards.

Chappy ferry operator Peter Wells told selectmen the project could eliminate some utility poles on the Chappaquiddick side, giving him more room for ferry operations. But he said he is concerned that the poles could be replaced by an electrical vault that would interfere with hauling boats.

The new conduits could provide an unexpected benefit for Chappy residents. Ms. Dolby is coordinating an effort to run cable TV lines through the new conduits.

The cost of a submarine cable or other technology dedicated only to cable TV service proved prohibitively expensive earlier, but may be possible working in conjunction with the NSTAR project.