$1.4B in Sandy Aid to Rebuild Long Island Electric Grid

LIPA crews working to restore power after Superstorm Sandy. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

The federal government is making more than $730 million available to fund long-awaited Long Island power grid upgrades and an additional $700 million to cover the cost of Sandy-related repairs, officials said.

The $1.4 billion agreement, announced Friday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, which characterized the move as “unprecedented” in New York State because of its promise to provide protection against future outages without burdening ratepayers with the costs of repairs.

Cuomo’s office said Federal Emergency Management Agency funding will go toward elevating damaged substations, moving certain power lines underground and automatic sectionalizing switches across the grid, among other improvements.

“We need to reimagine New York for the new reality of extreme weather and I want to thank FEMA for providing this new support to help us build back better and stronger than ever before,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The agreement also punctuates the complete turnaround of how the electric grid is managed on Long Island after officials blasted the Long Island Power Authority for its handling of the Oct. 29, 2012 hurricane. Since the storm, the state passed a bill that restructured LIPA by transforming it into a holding company and dramatically cutting its staff and board.

“We’re not just building back the same, we’re building back stronger, so that the next time a superstorm hits, the lights don’t go off across Long Island,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) added in a statement. “This generous amount of funding from the Federal Hurricane Sandy relief bill will make sure that Long Islanders, who saw such miserable service during the storm, will not be on the hook for the repairs and improvements to the system.”

Under the agreement, the state will bare the responsibility of determining how to utilize the $730 million made available to improve resiliency, a stipulation that the governor’s office cheered.

Ninety-percent of the funding will be paid for by FEMA, with the remainder coming from a federal Community Development Block Grant issued by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Cuomo’s office said.