BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — The gas distribution line that will connect a main natural gas pipeline in the harbor with a proposed power plant at Salem Harbor Station may have to go under Collins Cove and across land to the Fort Avenue facility.
Instead of an all-water route off the ocean, the partial land route through a section of the city looks possible because the most likely connection point to the main pipeline is in Beverly Harbor, officials said.
“All factors considered, I think that’s the preferred route,” said state Rep. John Keenan, House chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.
Keenan said he has met with officials from Spectra Energy, owners of the natural gas pipeline that goes under the ocean from Beverly to Weymouth. He said they are considering several routes and should be contacting residents within the next month about the possible alternatives.
If that land/water path is chosen, steps will be taken to ensure it has the least possible impact on residents, natural resources and private property, Keenan said.
An official from Footprint Power, the company that plans to build the new power plant, said Spectra should be making a filing this summer with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission designating preferred and alternate routes.
“Spectra has not finalized their plans,” said Peter Furniss, chief executive officer of Footprint.
While stressing that that no decisions have been made, Furniss also indicated, however, that a land route from Beverly Harbor is a possibility, cutting through property near National Grid’s LNG tank on Bridge Street neck, going under Collins Cove using a technology known as horizontal directional drilling and then across land to the power plant.
“They do not have a preferred route,” Furniss said. “They have not made the determination for what the preferred route would be. We anticipate they’re going to be taking a route that minimizes impacts on the community.”
Asked about the route past the LNG tank and under Collins Cove, Furniss said: “It’s one of the possibilities. I can’t say that is the preferred route.”
Whatever Spectra’s preference, the final decision will be made by FERC, the federal agency that oversees the project, officials said.
The Salem News was not able to reach a spokesman for Spectra Energy.
Footprint has filed plans to build a 670-megawatt, $800 million natural gas plant at Salem Harbor Station. The company is scheduled to close the current coal- and oil-fired plant next May. Footprint said it intends to demolish buildings and clean up the property and open its new natural gas plant in June 2016.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.