While it is possible to lay high-voltage transmission cables under Salem Harbor, it would be a "high-risk" installation, expensive to construct, harmful to the environment and difficult to maintain, according to a feasibility study commissioned by National Grid.
The giant utility announced its findings last week at a private meeting at the Hawthorne Hotel with downtown business owners and neighbors, who are concerned about the impact of a two-year construction project through the downtown and are lobbying for an alternative route.
After witnessing the delays and problems encountered by the current state highway project on Bridge Street, some are worried that an even larger National Grid project could virtually shut down a section of the city at the height of the tourism season.
A neighborhood group urged National Grid to consider going under the harbor and was disappointed to learn that the utility, after hiring a consultant to do the study, has rejected the idea.
Some are even asking for a peer review and to see the full report.
"They're saying that's out of the question," said George Carey, the owner of Finz, a Pickering Wharf restaurant, and former president of the Salem Chamber of Commerce. "They've done a study but don't want to release it ..."
Carey said the downtown community "wants to exhaust every possible question" on the water route before accepting a land alternative.
National Grid investigated a technology known as "horizontal directional drilling," or drilling down and under the harbor.
Last week, it released an executive summary of its study, which concluded that the underwater route is "a high-risk installation, has increased environmental impact, has increased project costs, and poses adverse long-term maintenance/reliability issues. ... As such, this project alternative has been deferred from further analysis and consideration."