Electric Cable Settlement Clears Way for Boston Dredging

The U.S. Department of Justice has settled a lawsuit against a New England electric utility and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority regarding a cable under Boston Harbor that allegedly was not installed to the federally required depth.

The settlement will allow the Boston Harbor Deep Draft Navigation Improvement Project to continue and ensure that modifications will come at no cost to the United States or Massport, the department said.

NSTAR Electric Company d/b/a Eversource Energy (NSTAR), NSTAR subsidiary Harbor Electric Energy Company (HEEC), and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) have entered into an agreement to settle a lawsuit filed against them by the United States in connection with a submarine electrical cable that lies beneath Boston Harbor and runs across two federal shipping channels.

The government’s complaint alleged that the cable was not installed as deep as required by a permit issued by the New England District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“The settlement will remedy the Clean Water Act and River and Harbors Act permit violations,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The permit violations in connection with the electric cable running under Boston Harbor will be resolved, so that the Deep Draft Project can proceed as scheduled. In addition, the settlement shows the commitment we place on upholding the integrity of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredge-and-fill permits, and the work the Corps does to protect our Nation’s waterways and highways of commerce.”

“This settlement will allow the Deep Draft project to proceed as planned,” said William D. Weinreb, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. “The Deep Draft project is necessary to keep the Port of Boston and its shipping facilities competitive with other East Coast ports. The settlement also means there will be no interference with the provision of electricity to the Deer Island Waste Water Treatment Plant, which is critical to keeping Boston Harbor clean. This is a victory for both the local economy and the environment.”

The cable, installed in 1990, extends from an NSTAR electrical substation in South Boston to Deer Island.

Its purpose was to provide electricity to power the construction and operation of the Deer Island Waste Water Treatment Plant, which is run by the MWRA.

The permit required the cable to be embedded at least 25 feet below the bottom of two shipping channels that it crosses, the Reserved Channel and the Main Ship Channel.