View Full Version : With Cross-Sound Rivals, Waters Are Rarely Calm

November 28th, 2003, 05:08 AM
November 28, 2003

With Cross-Sound Rivals, Waters Are Rarely Calm


It is a rivalry that has gone overlooked by headlines and history, and will never be as famous as the battles of the Axis versus the Allies, the Yankees versus the Red Sox and Liza Minnelli versus David Gest.

In one corner, Connecticut. In the other, Long Island. They no longer kidnap each other's citizens as they did two centuries ago, but people on opposite shores still squabble about nuclear plants, lobster fishing, underwater power lines and dredging, their arguments replaying an antagonism as old as the Revolutionary War.

They disagree on myriad issues, but most arguments find Long Island on one side, Connecticut on the other, and the Long Island Sound caught in the middle, like a child in a custody battle. They once fought over New York-Connecticut boundaries, and now they debate how the Sound should be used, by whom, and with what consequences.

And though politicians play down the cross-Sound rivalry, some residents see a cultural and geographical gap between Long Island and Connecticut.

One is a flat, fish-shaped island with a distinctly New York sensibility; the other, a hilly chunk of mainland United States with a New England pedigree. Together, they are a Hatfield and a McCoy separated by a lot more than 20 miles of water.

"I hope they don't go to war," said David Halberstam, the historian and writer. "We have enough other problems."

Relations between the two sides, incubated by history, curdled this summer after the August blackout.

Gov. George E. Pataki asked the federal Energy Department to juice up the Cross Sound Cable, an underwater power line that runs 24 miles under the Sound, from Shoreham, N.Y., to New Haven. Until then, opposition in Connecticut and a court ruling kept the cable dormant. The cable carried 300 megawatts of power to Long Island, but Connecticut's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, said it had been improperly buried, violating Connecticut law, and should be shut down.

Politicians tried to brush off the notion that the cable was a New York-against-Connecticut issue, but it soon mushroomed into one. Governor Pataki accused Mr. Blumenthal of playing "parochial politics" to thwart the common good, and Mr. Blumenthal fought back with charges that New York and the federal government were trampling on Connecticut's laws.

The hair-pulling over the cable resumed last week with news that Congress had slipped a provision into the national energy bill that would keep the cable running permanently. And though the energy bill did not pass this year, the rancor over the cable continues.

Mr. Blumenthal said that he would continue to fight the cable, possibly in federal court. At the same time, Long Island lawmakers and environmental groups are fighting a plan to dredge waste from Connecticut harbors and rivers and dump it into the Sound. Supporters of the dredging, including the commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection, argue that it is necessary to keep clotted shipping channels open.

But Julie Evans Brumm, a board member for the environmental group Friends of Long Island Sound, said the dredging would benefit Connecticut industries at the expense of the Sound.

"It's their muck, and unfortunately, the imaginary line that separates New York waters from Connecticut waters doesn't separate the muck," Ms. Evans Brumm said. "We become party to their muck."

In interviews about the cable, Mr. Blumenthal and Richard M. Kessel, who is chairman of the Long Island Power Authority, were reluctant to recognize any antagonism between their states. The recent conflict, they said, was just a fluke.

"I've never thought that there was a particularly bad relationship between Connecticut and Long Island," Mr. Kessel said. "No shots have been fired, no wars have been declared. The world goes on. Connecticut and Long Island are so close to each other that we're going to have to get along."

But in so many ways, they do not.

Dotted ferry routes used to line maps of Long Island Sound like harp strings. But when highways, railroads and parkways were built in the early 20th century, the ferries stopped running and the two shores, once closely linked, lost touch, said Marilyn E. Weigold, a history professor at Pace University.

"The waterway really became a kind of obstacle and line of demarcation," Dr. Weigold said. "Long Island has really been regarded by many mainlanders as being sort of a land apart. The perception is that Long Island is one big L.I.E. and unbroken series of Levittown developments. There is this image of this big, flat fish-shaped piece of land on the other side of the Sound."

The early relationship between Long Island and Connecticut seems equal parts cooperation and conflict. The two traded farm goods, livestock and tombstones across the Sound, and for 20 years during the 1600's, much of the East End was actually part of Connecticut.

That area in particular wished to remain associated with New England. "The people of the East End of Long Island are not very willing to be persuaded to believe that they belong to this province," wrote New York's royal governor, Lord Cornbury, in 1703. "They are full of New England principles."

But during the Revolutionary War, Long Island and Connecticut were cleaved by politics. Christopher Collier, a Connecticut historian, said that Connecticut was a refuge for pro-Revolutionary Long Islanders who needed to flee the British-controlled island.

Throughout the war, raiding parties from both sides would traverse the Sound in oar-driven whaling boats, Mr. Collier said, kidnapping residents and the occasional sleeping militia officer and burning property before they scuttled home.

Manners improved over time, but different conflicts erupted.

In the late 1950's and 60's, Nelson Rockefeller, then the governor of New York, and Robert Moses, the urban planner, infuriated Connecticut with proposals to build bridges spanning the Sound. Residents fought the plans, which were quashed after a committee said the area did not want or need a bridge.

"It's strictly a state chauvinism perspective," Mr. Collier said. "What's good for our state and the hell with everybody else."

A few years ago, Connecticut and New York lobster fishers went to court arguing about who could fish off Fishers Island, a strip of land close to the Connecticut shoreline, but legally part of New York State. Connecticut won that fight. "There's always bickering and skirmishes here and there," said James F. King, of the Long Island Lobstermen's Association. "When you start to lose the resource, fishermen expand into other areas, and that's where you start to have problems."

But the rift extends beyond the worlds of commerce and politics.

Take the obscure hard-core bands Overthrow and Voice of Reason, who together released an album in the late 1990's titled "Connecticut vs. Long Island."

Or a Web blogger in Virginia, Bill Cimino, who held a contest to christen states with new mottoes and was suddenly enmeshed in an interstate brawl. Salvos like "Long Island: Come have some cawfee at our mawls!" and "Connecticut: No pro sports, but better than having the Islanders" crackled across the Web.

Not even their geologies seem to mesh, said Ralph Lewis, the former Connecticut state geologist. Connecticut is a very north-south state, Mr. Lewis said, its hills and the curl of the land carved in a way that makes it more difficult to travel along a latitude line. Long Island is just the opposite, flat and veined with east-west highways and railroads.

"It's more than just spats," he said. "It's a whole different culture."

Which is why the archetypal Long Islander looked nothing like the archetypal Connecticut resident, as imagined by Mort Walker, the cartoonist who created Beetle Bailey. Reached at his Connecticut studio, he said he thought the typical Connecticut resident would look "country casual," and perhaps be shod in sandals or shoes without socks.

"The Long Islanders I would picture being hipper," Mr. Walker said. "I've heard about some of those parties they have in the Hamptons. They seem to be kind of racy, and we don't allow that kind of thing around here."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

June 25th, 2004, 09:49 AM

June 25, 2004

WASHINGTON Connecticut and New York officials reached an agreement last night to activate the underwater Cross Sound Cable.

The agreement gives Connecticut $6 million and requires the Long Island Power Authority to pay half of the repair costs for a set of aging power cables that run from Norwalk, Conn., to Northport, L.I. AP

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

June 25th, 2004, 12:40 PM
June 25, 2004

New York and Connecticut Agree to End Cable Dispute


New York and Connecticut officials ended their battles over two electric cables across Long Island Sound yesterday by agreeing to reactivate a new cable that had been turned off and to replace an aging cable that had become unreliable.

The 330-megawatt Cross-Sound Cable, stretching 24 miles from New Haven to Shoreham, N.Y., could be back in service as early as this weekend, according to the Long Island Power Authority. The utility has been eager to restore service to bring in power from New England to help meet the summer's high demands for air-conditioning.

The replacement of the other line, a 300-megawatt cable running 11 miles from Norwalk, Conn., to Northport, N.Y., and carrying power to New England, is a longer-term project.

The agreement barely met a 5 p.m. deadline set a week ago by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That panel had warned public officials and utilities on both sides of the sound to work out their differences, otherwise the federal commissioners would issue orders deciding both disputes.

The Cross-Sound Cable's off-again, on-again history started shortly after its installation in 2002, when Connecticut officials blocked it from going into service, raising environmental objections and claiming that it could result in higher electric rates for Connecticut users. But after last summer's Northeast blackout, Long Island officials won an emergency federal order that turned on the cable.

Connecticut fought back, eventually forcing the United States secretary of energy to rule that an emergency no longer existed, thus shutting down the cable last month. Then the Long Island Power Authority appealed to the federal commission.

One lingering uncertainty is whether Connecticut's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, will challenge the agreement. He led the fight to block the Cross-Sound Cable, objecting to a 740-foot section that was not buried to the full depth that had been planned, because of bedrock.

The cable company and LIPA argued that the deviation was minimal, and even Connecticut environmental officials conceded that that it caused no problems.

Mr. Blumenthal had vowed to oppose moves to turn the cable back on, also on environmental grounds and concerns over cost, but yesterday he stopped short of saying he would fight the agreement. "I will be scrutinizing the agreement closely and critically," he said. "I am in favor of a reasonable and sensible resolution," he added. But he cautioned that an earlier draft "certainly contained serious flaws that we tried to correct." Reserving decision, he said, "Whether the negotiators addressed these grave defects will have to be determined after reviewing the document."

Others in the negotiations said that the grounds for Connecticut to appeal are limited since the deal was endorsed by the state's Departments of Environmental Protection and Public Utility Control and by the cochairwoman of the General Assembly's Environment Committee, Representative Patricia Widlitz. She was the last to sign off, and said she did so with reservations.

New York's top officials, including Gov. George E. Pataki, Senators Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Representatives Timothy Bishop and Steve Israel, all hailed the compromise, calling it a "win-win" for both states.

Under the agreement, the Cross-Sound Cable Company is required to place the shallow segment at the required depth - corrective work that Connecticut had blocked.

As for the older cable, the Long Island Power Authority agreed to share half the cost of the replacement, which the authority had been reluctant to do. It co-owns the cable with Northeast Utilities, which had been pressing to replace the 35-year-old line because its deterioration and damage sometimes causes its cooling fluid to leak. The project has been estimated to cost $80 million.

In addition, a $6 million fund for the study and preservation of Long Island Sound will be created, with $2 million each from the Long Island Power Authority, the Cross-Sound Cable Company and Connecticut Power and Light.

The Long Island Power Authority's chairman, Richard M. Kessel, called the agreement "a victory for the entire region."

Senator Schumer said, "Both sides of the sound benefit when we work together."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company