, Salem, MA

July 26, 2013

Letter: Salem power project no Big Dig

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

Now that the Salem City Council has deemed the vocal minority’s cry of “The sky is falling!” worthy of a ballot question (”Utility cable issue on Salem’s fall ballot,” July 22), it seems like it’s time to weigh in with a more reasoned perspective. Though from the moment the project was announced, a few residents immediately wanted to take up torches and pitchforks, the rest of us on the route thought, “OK, it’ll probably be a little noisy, but it sounds like a good thing long-term.” But if the “squeaky wheel gets the grease,” it’s also true that the loud and fearful can get the political attention. This appears mostly to be longtime residents who oddly have forgotten that at some point in the past, gas lines were put in, sewer lines installed and repaired, and the roads were paved several times over. Yet, somehow, everyone lived through it, and the city was better for it. Maybe the town criers have more time to worry about the “what ifs,” but I still haven’t heard any objective reasoning applied to what amounts to a very simple utility project. As far as construction goes, this ranks way down with the potential disruptions and problems that might come up.

For those residents on the proposed route who have busy lives with kids and multiple activities: Perhaps take the longer view on things, this whole project is basically a NON-issue. Yes, it’ll be noisy, dusty, probably inconvenient, but really? We all need electricity, and to say this fight isn’t a NIMBY issue is just being dishonest. I personally think it’s great National Grid is not ignoring our infrastructure needs and is willing to make the investment for our future! I imagine as more technology businesses move into the city, they also will welcome a reliable source of power, as should all residents. Whatever happened to old-fashioned civic duty, not to mention thinking beyond one’s own selfish interests?

And this comparison to the Bridge Street road work is completely off-base. In that instance, it was three different utilities working separately over several years, plus all of the other street improvements, and on a very busy throughway. But again, now that it’s done, it looks great and obviously made the entire neighborhood a much better place to live or work in. In a year or two, you might have a few residents who will like to talk about it like a bad winter, but it will be hard to argue it wasn’t worth it long-term.

But the transmission line upgrade? We’re talking about an 8-inch wide slot, cut through the street that is estimated to last three weeks per street. Even if you tripled that estimate, it’s hardly The Big Dig of Salem! If there ever was a situation where a mountain was being made out of a molehill, this one is it. By every comparison possible, this project in Salem is laughably minor; however, it is important to the city’s future.

Lastly, this obsession with running the cable under the harbor is nothing but a product of faulty logic, wishful thinking, and a clear misunderstanding of basic engineering and planning. The fact is, a year after the cable is installed, it will be forgotten it’s even there! There will be no “ground zero” during installation, nor any “fall-out” but instead a prudent investment in the city’s infrastructure, which those of us who are still interested in its long-term future will welcome. I sometimes wonder if the city councilors who are siding with the “No!” residents are really interested in anything more “long-term” than the next election.

Doug Bowker