Boston Harbor Dredging Project Triggers Utility Settlement

WASHINGTON (CN) – Sued for interfering in dredging of Boston Harbor, the power company NStar reached a settlement with the U.S. government on Wednesday to install a new cable.

NStar Electric, which does business as Eversource Energy, had installed a cable in 1990, connecting an electrical substation in South Boston to the city’s waste-management facility on Deer Island in the Boston Harbor.

Though the permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mandated burial of the cable at least 25 feet under the bottom of the harbor, the cable rose at a more shallow level at some places. 

The installation became a problem in 2014 when Congress authorized a $310 million project dredging project to deepen shipping lanes in Boston Harbor, including the lane that is crossed by the shallow cable.

In July 2016, Uncle Sam brought a federal complaint against NStar, its subsidiaries and the Massachusetts Water and Resources Authority under the Clean Waters Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. 

The settlement gives Harbor Electric Energy Co., an NStar subsidiary, until 2019 to lay a new electrical cable from South Boston to the waste-management treatment facility on Deer Island that is outside of the harbor’s reserved channel and out of the way of the Deep Draft Project. Once the new cable is completed, NStar will remove the old cable and allow the dredging project to continue.

“The settlement will remedy the Clean Water Act and River and Harbors Act permit violations,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Wood said in a statement. “The permit violations in connection with the electric cable running under Boston Harbor will be resolved, so that the Deep Draft Project can proceed as scheduled. In addition, the settlement shows the commitment we place on upholding the integrity of US Army Corps of Engineers dredge-and-fill permits, and the work the Corps does to protect our nation’s waterways and highways of commerce.”

Boston has been attempting to deepen the shipping lanes in Boston Harbor to 50 feet so that it can accommodate the new super tankers that are able to maneuver through the Panama Canal after its own deepening project.

By dredging the Boston Harbor, the city hopes to remain competitive with other East Coast cities such as Miami, Baltimore and New York City that have already deepened their ports to 50 feet.

The dredging project is expected to resume at that point.

“This settlement will allow the Deep Draft project to proceed as planned,” Acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb said in a statement. “The Deep Draft project is necessary to keep the Port of Boston and its shipping facilities competitive with other East Coast ports. The settlement also means there will be no interference with the provision of electricity to the Deer Island Waste Water Treatment Plant, which is critical to keeping Boston Harbor clean. This is a victory for both the local economy and the environment.” 

%d bloggers like this: