Settlement Allows Boston Harbor Deep Draft Project to Continue as Scheduled

28

MARCH, 2016

NSTAR
Dredging 

United States reached a settlement for NSTAR Electric to fix an improperly installed cable that could have hindered the Boston Harbor Deep Draft project.

July, 2017, the United States reached a settlement in a case against NSTAR Electric Company (now a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities), who in 1990 improperly installed a cable that could have hindered the Boston Harbor Deep Draft Project. The project adds Boston Harbor to the ever-growing list of shipping ports deepening their waters to accommodate Panamax and now Post-Panamax ships that shipping lines have been using since the Panama Canal expansion completed in 2016.

According to the United States Department of Justice statement  after the settlement, the cable runs from an NSTAR substation in South Boston to Deer Island and provides power to the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. It runs under two shipping channels, the Reserved Channel and the Main Ship Channel, and should have been installed at least 25 feet below them. It was instead installed too close to the bottoms of these channels, posing a threat to the operations of the dredging project and the wastewater facility it was connected to. This was not an issue until 2014 when Congress authorized the Boston Harbor Deep Draft project.

The Panama Canal expansion prompted ports all along the east coast to also expand, launching dredging projects to deepen their waters and accommodate the larger ships. A 2014 presentation by Stewart Dalzell, deputy director for the Massachusetts Port Authority (commonly known as Massport), outlined the pressure to upgrade their facilities.

Settlement Allows Boston Harbor Deep Draft Project to Continue as Scheduled

“Deeper channels to Conley [container terminal] are urgently needed!” the presentation declares in bold titling. “If Boston cannot accommodate the larger ships, shipping lines will not call Boston.”

This is crucial to Boston. Dalzell stated in the same presentation that more than 34,000 jobs are connected to the Harbor, which handles $11.4 billion in goods annually for 1600 companies, as well as 67% of the region’s petroleum. In addition, Massport and the state of Massachusetts are spending a combined $130 million in addition to $170 million from the federal government on the dredging alone.

“The Deep Draft project is necessary to keep the Port of Boston and its shipping facilities competitive with other East Coast ports,” said William D. Weinreb, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.

“Deeper channels to Conley are urgently needed! If Boston cannot accommodate the larger ships, shipping lines will not call Boston.”

In other words, everyone involved has much to lose from delays and issues, and an important power cable installed too close to the bottom of the Harbor to deepen it safely would certainly cause delays and issues.

The government asserted that by installing the cable improperly, NSTAR violated the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and the Clean Water Act, two federal laws applicable to NSTAR’s permit.

The Department of Justice report states that the settlement requires Harbor Electric Energy Company, a subsidiary of NSTAR, to lay a new electrical cable across Boston Harbor before the end of 2019 outside of the Reserved Channel and in avoidance of the Deep Draft project, and then remove the current one. This arrangement would allow the project to continue without issue.

“This settlement will allow the Deep Draft project to proceed as planned,” said Weinreb. “…The settlement also means there will be no interference with the provision of electricity to the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is critical to keeping Boston Harbor clean. This is a victory for both the local economy and the environment.

Learn more

Drop your details below for more information.