, Salem, MA

May 17, 2013

Salem power plant owners address rumors


---- — SALEM — It’s only natural that the redevelopment of a 65-acre waterfront site, a plan that includes the construction of a $800 million natural gas-fired power plant, should generate a lot of worries and rumors.

That was on display last night when the Planning Board hosted its second public hearing on Footprint Power’s proposal to develop Salem Harbor Station, which was held before about 100 people at the Bentley School.

First, the rumors.

Will there be housing in future phases of the development? The short answer is “no.”

“That is not in the plan,” said Joe Correnti, a lawyer for Footprint. “That is not proposed in any shape or form.”

Not only is housing not allowed in the state-designated port area, but the majority of the site that remains after the power plant is built will be targeted for marine, industrial and commercial development, which was recommended in a re-use study commissioned by the city, officials said.

Salem residents are not going to see a “housing complex, hotels or casinos,” said Scott Silverstein, Footprint’s president. “That’s not happening here.”

Will there be blasting during demolition of the old power plant or construction of a new one?

“We don’t anticipate any,” said Silverstein.

The one caveat may be the possible implosion of one or more of the smokestacks, but Silverstein said he is aware neighbors are worried about that and is asking a demolition contractor to provide cost estimates on ways to take the structures down “manually.”

One of the chief concerns, expressed by several people, was safety.

“There is a huge pile of issues here all related to the relative risk” to neighbors, said Theodora Sobin of Derby Street.

Specifically, there were questions about polluting emissions and the operation of a natural gas plant.

“The short answer is (that) safety is our primary concern,” Silverstein said. “Every safety feature that is appropriate will be built into the plant.”

Footprint consultants will address those issues in more detail at future meetings, he said.

There were also questions about the gas line to the plant that may have to cross over land to get to the Fort Avenue facility. The decision on the gas line won’t be made by Footprint, Silverstein said, but by Spectra Energy, which owns and operates a large gas line that runs under the ocean from Beverly to Weymouth.

What about demolition? How will all that material be removed? What will the truck traffic be like?

Most of the demolition materials, which include steel oil tanks and brick stacks, will be taken over water by barges, officials said. That also will be the preferred method of transport for construction material.

“Our primary method of removing material and construction equipment will be by marine access,” said Ken Kinkela, a contractor hired by Footprint. “All the big going to come by ship.”

The demolition and construction will be done in stages, Kinkela said, beginning in August and ending in April 2016. The new plant is slated to open two months later in June.

At the peak of construction, a period of a few months, there will be about 600 workers on the site. A consultant said they should not impact traffic significantly because they will be arriving by 7 a.m. and leaving in mid-afternoon.

Footprint also announced plans to build a 12-foot acoustical wall around the site to reduce sound during demolition and construction.

Tom Dalton can be reached at