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Public Scoping and Early Notice of a Proposed Activity with the Potential to Impact Floodplains and Preparation of an Environmental Assessment for Installation of Undersea Cable at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center at Plum Island, New York

Interested parties are hereby notified that the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) intends to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) and requests receipt of public scoping comments. This EA will evaluate the DHS S&T’s proposal to conduct activities relating to the abandonment in place of an existing undersea utility cable and the installation of a new undersea utility cable between Orient Point, New York (NY) and the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) on Plum Island, NY (Proposed Action). Plum Island receives electrical and fiber optic communications capabilities through two existing undersea cables connecting Orient Point and Plum Island, referred to as the M1 and M2 cables. Each cable contains 13.2 kilovolts, measures up to approximately 11,000 feet long, and provides for the island’s normal electrical requirements. The expected lifespan of these cables is approximately 25 years, which the M1 cable has exceeded and the M2 cable is near exceeding.  DHS S&T is proposing the installation of a new undersea utility cable between Orient Point, NY and PIADC on Plum Island, NY.

The cable would be connected to the existing utility vaults located on Orient Point and Plum Island and would be installed using a combination of trenching and/or horizontal directional drilling from the shore to below the water line, and then bottom laying the cable from a barge across the seafloor of Plum Gut. The new cable would be installed between or adjacent to the existing M1 and M2 cables. The path taken by the existing cables has been determined to be the most suitable route due to ocean depth in the area. One of the existing cables would be disconnected from the utility vaults on Orient Point and Plum Island and abandoned in place, identical to how previous cable replacement projects have been conducted in the area. 

Tasks to facilitate the Proposed Action would occur within the Federal Emergency Management Agency 100-year floodplain as well as within fringing estuarine and marine wetlands, including cable abandonment, upland trenching along the coastlines of Plum Island and Orient Point, underground horizontal drilling from the shore to below the water line, and cable laying. No impacts to the long-term function of the 100-year floodplain have been identified, nor is there an increased potential for flooding either on-site or off-site. Proposed work is necessary at these coastal areas; therefore, there is no practicable alternative to working in the floodplain. 

This notice is being issued to all interested parties in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, the White House Council on Environmental Quality Regulations Implementing the Procedural Provisions of NEPA (40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Parts 1500-1508), DHS Management Directive 023-01, rev. 01 Implementation of the NEPA, and DHS Instruction 023-01-001-01 rev. 01 Implementation of the NEPA. This posting also serves as a notice in accordance with Section 2(a)(4) of Executive Order 11988, Floodplain Management, and Executive Order 11990, Protection of Wetlands

Public Review: DHS S&T is seeking comments from Federal, State, and local agencies, Tribes, and individuals who may be interested in or affected by the Proposed Action. This input will be used in preparing the Draft EA. Please provide your comments by October 28, 2023 to: Benjamin Obenland at benjamin.obenland@aecom.com. Email responses are preferred, although letter responses may be submitted to Benjamin Obenland, AECOM, 12420 Milestone Center Drive, Suite 150, Germantown, Maryland 20876. 

Last Updated: 01/25/2024
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