SALEM — National Grid’s proposal to lay high-voltage transmission cables through neighborhoods and the heart of the historic downtown got a hostile reception last night at a community meeting.
Many in the crowd of 60 people at the Salem Waterfront Hotel urged the giant utility to take an alternative route under Salem Harbor — an option National Grid has rejected.
“You’re not taking people into account, but you’re taking fish into account,” said Juli Lederhaus, general manager of the Hawthorne Hotel. “I’m sorry, but I think that’s wrong.”
“The Common we love so much is going to be sinking into a mud hole by the time you finish,” said Maryann Curtin of the Salem Common Neighborhood Association.
Next month, National Grid will file a plan with the state Energy Facilities Siting Board to replace two 115,000-volt transmission cables that run from an electrical substation next to the Salem Harbor Station power plant to another substation on Canal Street.
Work is expected to begin next year and finish in 2016.
The 1.5-mile stretch of cable, which runs down Derby Street to Canal Street, is an important link in the North Shore power grid but is old, failing and needs to be replaced, according to National Grid.
The company is asking the state to replace one cable along the Derby and Canal Street route and to lay another one along a new route through a Salem Common neighborhood, down Hawthorne Boulevard and Congress Street, and across The Point neighborhood to Canal Street.
Although many issues were discussed at a heated meeting last night attended by city leaders, the talk kept coming back to the proposed route deep under Salem Harbor.
National Grid hired consultants to study the issue last year and rejected it as too costly, environmentally harmful and difficult to repair.