Jersey Central Power & Light will replace a pair of submarine electrical transmission cables – one of which was decommissioned 29 years ago – as part of a major upgrade of electrical service to the barrier island, a representative from the utility told the Ocean County Commissioners on Wednesday.
Robert Brice, the regional external affairs representative for JCP&L – who previously served as borough administrator in Lavallette – updated the board on several projects the utility company was in the process of undertaking in Ocean County, with the replacement of the submarine cables running across Barnegat Bay as one of the most major efforts nearly ready for construction.
“This will reinforce the island with another transmission cable,” said Brice, adding that the project represents a $25 million investment into the island’s electrical reliability.
Brice said construction will begin on the project this fall. Though some island communities, such as Seaside Heights and Lavallette, operate municipal electrical utilities and its residents are not customers of JCP&L, the transmission lines to the island will provide a major backup system in case of a failure in any of the municipal utilities.
“We have the ability to hook up a portable transformer to three substations on the barrier island in Seaside Heights, Ortley or Lavallette,” said Brice.
The portable transformer is physically located in Lakewood and can be rapidly deployed to another town in need, he said.
According to planning documents filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, there are two cables that run across Barnegat Bay from the Berkeley Shores section of Bayville to the area near the 13th Avenue pier and boat ramp in Seaside Park. Adjacent to the boat ramp, an aging sign still warns boaters against anchoring near the shore since electrical cabling is present underneath. One of the two cables, however, was decommissioned in 1994 with the other having been taken offline in 2002. The utility is replacing the cables as part of a larger project to improve the reliability of the local transmission system and prepare for heavier usage in future years as New Jersey joins several states requiring all cars sold statewide to be electric by 2035.
The replacement of the “X50” submarine line project was proposed to the Army Corps last year and went through a public comment period last fall. The transmission lines were originally laid in 1949 and 1968. They were de-energized in 2002 and 1994, respectively. One of the lines runs from 8,000 linear feet and the other for 7,950 linear feet. The utility line route was previously approved under NJDEP permits and plans dated March 21, 1949 and Aug. 30, 1968.
Under the plan as submitted to the Army Corps, the existing cables will be removed and replaced with new cables in three-foot wide trenches that cross the bay at a minimum depth of 12-feet under the sand in the Intracoastal Waterway channel and at least 4-feet deep underneath the remainder of the bay floor. They will connect from a riser pole in Bayville on the mainland side of the bay near the former AT&T long-line shortwave facility, and extend to an underground manhole near a 100-foot wide right-of-way near the Seaside Park municipal boat ramp at 13th Avenue.
A hydrographic survey of the cable route was completed in July 2022.
Brice said JCP&L will spend $27 million on 23 substations in the Ocean County area in the next year to lessen the possibility of power outages, and also begin upgrading customers’ homes to “smart meters” which will allow the utility to identify outages in real-time, when they do occur, so they can be repaired quickly.