Here at FWIW a spirited discussion of the issue was conducted among readers (those who still had Internet access, anyway) while Sandy raged outside but now Greenwich Time weighs in. It would cost billions to accomplish state wide – we have 17,000 miles of wires overhead, 6,000 more underground and even then, burial wouldn’t solve the problem, as NYC and even Old Greenwich just discovered.
“The issue of resiliency is the real issue,” said Joe McGee, vice president of policy at the Business Council of Fairfield County and chairman of the panel charged to explore this very issue after the 2011 storms.
“There’s no question, undergrounding does prevent wind damage,” McGee said. “But a storm, when there is a flood, exploits the problem with underground utilities… You realize, `Oh my God, salt water damages underground equipment.'”
And the issue is broader than merely ensuring that back country residents can keep their microwaves humming:
It’s more than just wires; the state needs to look at moving other infrastructure, [McGee] said. Power and sewage treatment plants are on the water. Electric and heating systems are in basements that could be flooded, and major highways and the railroad run next to the water.
Greenwich residents might want to be cautious before pushing for what could turn out to be their own burial: the designated CL&P spokesman points out that “it’s a major undertaking at a very high cost… [and] distribution projects are paid for by the communities that benefit them instead of being shared by all ratepayers, like transmission projects”.
I’m not only suggesting that we would be committing to a project whose cost would dwarf that of any of our other dreams we can’t afford – Byram pool, anyone? Eastern Civic Center? Fire houses? Maintainance of existing parks and infrastructure? – but we’d be opening the door to the introduction of a state-wide project because”why should Greenwich have something the rest of us don’t?” And where do you think Hartford would look for the funds to do that? Fudrucker, call your pal Dannel – there’s another opportunity to soak the rich here.