By John Lynds
For the last two years, the owner of Channel Fish has launched a visual, media and talking campaign against Eversource’s plans to place a substation on a city-owned parcel at the City Yards adjacent to Louis Silvestro’s fish processing business in Eagle Square. Last Thursday the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) ruled in favor of placing the substation at the City Yards. However, the final ruling will likely place the substation on the far northwestern corner of the parcel and not directly adjacent to Channel Fish – a decision Silvestro seems to be comfortable with.
“The Energy Facilities Siting Board takes seriously its role to ensure a reliable, cost-effective, environmentally-conscious energy supply for the Commonwealth, and will continue to operate in an open and transparent manner to ensure that any energy infrastructure project meets all statutory and regulatory requirements, while adhering to all policies of the Commonwealth, for environmental protection, public health, and safety,” said EFSB spokeswoman Katie Gronendyke.
Gronendyke said the after an extensive public and stakeholder process, the EFSB voted to approve ‘with conditions’ Eversource’s proposed new 115 kV underground cables in Eastie, Everett, and Chelsea and a the new substation on the city’s East Eagle Street parcel. The Siting Board directed Eversource to enter into discussions with the City of Boston regarding the possible relocation of the new substation and the related cable on the East Eagle Street site. The siting board also directed Eversource to provide an update to the siting board on the status of such discussions before commencement of construction on the City parcel within six months of the Thursday’s decision. The EFSB will allow construction of the project to proceed immediately, with the exception of the East Eagle street substation and related on-site cables. This will give additional time for Eversource, the City of Boston, and Channel Fish iron out the alternative location in the northwest section of the City Yards for the substation.
“The substation in East Boston will better support East Boston’s growing population and facilities, including the City’s investments in a new police station, ambulance bay and public works facility,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “The City is in the process of working with Eversource to ensure the substation is in the best possible location for the residents and businesses in East Boston.”
In his comments to the EFSB last week, Silvestro said that while Channel Fish had numerous concerns about the proposed substation and how it would affect his business and the safety of the community he took the opportunity to applaud the Mayor’s efforts help move the substation away from Channel Fish.
“Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is aware of the serious challenges that the proposed substation poses for our neighborhood ‘s environmental, business, and public interests,” said Silvestro. “We understand that the mayor and his staff are working hard to balance all of these interests and to facilitate a solution. On behalf of myself and Channel Fish, I sincerely appreciate and wholeheartedly support Walsh’s efforts to balance the relevant community interests while pursuing a resolution that serves the people and businesses of Eagle Square.”
The plan to place a substation at the City Yards was part of a land swap between the city and Eversource during the late Mayor Thomas Menino’s Administration. The city needed a centrally located parcel in which to build a new neighborhood branch library. The City identified a parcel of land owned by Eversource along the Bremen Street adjacent to the Bremen Street Park. The City and Eversource entered into an agreement to allow the City to build the new library on Eversource’s Bremen Street parcel in return for a parcel of land at the City Yards.
City Councilor Sal LaMattina, who will leave office at the end of the year, said he has supported the substation all along.
“There are these types of substations all over Boston,” said LaMattina. “It’s too bad there was a lot of fear mongering going on that the proposed substation would disrupt the new police station project or the health of residents. There is a similar substation right next door to District A-1’s police station and Channel 7 News downtown and it does not affect their equipment. In the end the City Yards location, away from Channel Fish, is the best location that will have the least amount of impacts on the neighborhood. If the substation was going to go on Bremen Street, as was Eversource’s originally intent before the library project, we would have had months, if not years, of road work and traffic disruptions all through Eagle Hill and Day Square. I guarantee if the substation was at its original location on Bremen Street there wouldn’t be full page ads in the paper.” “