Har­bor cable route still at is­sue

Com­mis­sion seeks al­ter­na­tives to place­ment near docks

The Norwalk Hour - - FRONT PAGE - By Robert Koch

NOR­WALK — The Nor­walk Har­bor Man­age­ment Com­mis­sion isn’t giv­ing up on its ef­fort to keep two high-volt­age elec­tric ca­bles away from the newly re­built pub­lic vis­i­tor’s docks at Veter­ans Memo­rial Park.

John T. Pinto, chair­man of the Har­bor Com­mis­sion’s Ap­pli­ca­tion Re­view Com­mit­tee, said the group doesn’t ob­ject to Ever­source En­ergy re­lo­cat­ing the ca­bles to be­low Nor­walk Har­bor as part of the Walk Bridge re­place­ment pro­ject. The route is the is­sue.

“The im­pres­sion that Lisa Burns from DPW (Pub­lic Works) gave to every­one re­gard­ing the Ever­source pro­ject is that the only other op­tion they have, if they don’t go un­der the har­bor, is to go above land,” Pinto said. “There are other op­tions un­der the har­bor, but they haven’t pre­sented those.”

Com­mis­sion turns to con­sul­tant

Pinto said the har­bor com­mis­sion plans to en­gage Mitch Mail­man, a lead­ing con­sul­tant in un­der­ground elec­tric trans­mis­sion place­ment. Mail­man said Fri­day the is­sue isn’t about run­ning the ca­bles over­head or un­der­ground.

“The is­sue here is about lit­er­ally try­ing to thread a nee­dle and try­ing

to place it un­der­neath the docks that be­long to the city, and there are other op­tions,” Mail­man said. “No­body is say­ing don’t do this in our back­yard. All they’re say­ing is move it 100 feet to the south so that it doesn’t go un­der the docks.”

On Oct. 9, the Nor­walk Com­mon Coun­cil au­tho­rized Mayor Harry Rilling to send a let­ter on be­half of the city, in­di­cat­ing no ob­jec­tions to Ever­source ap­ply­ing to the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers for a per­mit to per­form re­lo­cate the ca­bles un­der its pre­ferred route.

Var­i­ous routes ex­plored

The two 115-kilo­volt ca­bles pro­vide elec­tric­ity to the Third Tax­ing District and south­west­ern Con­necti­cut. Ever­source must re­move them from the Walk Bridge by 2020 as part of the Con­necti­cut De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion’s re­place­ment of the bridge.

The re­lo­cated ca­bles would go un­der­ground at the Nor­walk Po­lice De­part­ment head­quar­ters park­ing lot at 1 Mon­roe St., run be­low El­iz­a­beth Street, go un­der the har­bor from be­tween 70 and 90 Wa­ter St. and emerge at the north end of the vis­i­tor’s docks park­ing lot. Un­der the har­bor, the ca­bles would be placed be­low the bot­tom of the pil­ings of the newly built vis­i­tor’s docks at the park, ac­cord­ing to Lisa Burns, prin­ci­pal engi­neer at the Nor­walk De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works.

Burns out­lined the evo­lu­tion of Ever­source’s En­ergy plan to the Com­mon Coun­cil’s Pub­lic Works, and Re­cre­ation, Parks and Cul­tural Af­fairs Com­mit­tee at City Hall on Oct. 2. Af­ter work­ing with the city, the util­ity com­pany went from con­sid­er­a­tion of seven, largely above-ground routes, in July 2017 to the cur­rent un­der­ground plan.

“The cri­te­ria they (Ever­source) were given with the south­ern route was to have the least amount of park im­pact, and to the least amount of im­pact on de­vel­op­ment of fu­ture prop­er­ties,” Burns said.

In June 2018, Ever­source com­pleted its re­designed plan, which would run the trans­mis­sion ca­bles ap­prox­i­mately 8 feet be­low the dock pil­ings and be con­sis­tent with the Veter­ans Memo­rial Park Mas­ter Plan, ac­cord­ing to Burns.

The city engi­neer also ad­dressed a more south­ern route, away from the vis­i­tor’s docks.

“There was some dis­cus­sion that was brought up in the spring, about why can’t you go this way down to­ward the bas­ket­ball court, and go this way on El­iz­a­beth Street,” said Burns, point­ing out ar­eas of Veter­ans Park and SoNo on a map. “That was deemed not fea­si­ble for a num­ber of rea­sons.”

Burns said the Fed­eral High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion per­mit process re­quires that de­vel­op­ment not have ad­verse im­pacts on pub­lic prop­er­ties — es­pe­cially those that have recre­ational uses.

“This was go­ing to be a per­ma­nent en­cum­brance go­ing un­der­ground through the park and across, and that was not go­ing to be ac­cept­able for fund­ing pur­poses,” Burns said. “Fur­ther, when Ever­source laid out that route, it took 90 Wa­ter St., which peo­ple call the Spin­naker prop­erty, to­tally off the abil­ity to be re­turned to a water­front de­vel­op­ment use.”

Sit­ing Coun­cil will have fi­nal say

For the har­bor com­mis­sion, Ever­source’s pro­posed route stands to place en­cum­brances on the city’s abil­ity to re­pair or ex­pand the vis­i­tor’s docks.

In late May, new gang­ways were in­stalled as part of the fi­nal phases of the $1.5 mil­lion dock re­place­ment pro­ject at the David S. Du­na­van Boat­ing Cen­ter. The dock re­place­ment pro­ject was paid partly with a $908,250 grant through the Con­necti­cut Port Author­ity’s Small Har­bor Im­prove­ment Projects Pro­gram.

Har­bor com­mis­sion­ers don’t want to be ham­pered from any fur­ther such im­prove­ments due to the pres­ence of high-volt­age elec­tric ca­bles near the docks.

“If there are other al­ter­na­tives to go south of those docks and avoid the docks al­to­gether, let’s dis­cuss them,” Pinto said. “I think it’s im­por­tant for us to con­sider and get the best pro­ject for Nor­walk.”

Frank Poirot, spokesman for Ever­source En­ergy, said the com­pany plans to file its per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion with the Army Corps by Novem­ber. The route be­neath the vis­i­tor’s docks re­mains the com­pany’s first choice, he said.

“The (Con­necti­cut) Sit­ing Coun­cil will ul­ti­mately de­cide how our cable con­nects to the grid in South­west Con­necti­cut,” Poirot said.

The pro­ject also needs ap­proval from the Con­necti­cut De­part­ment of En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Protec-

Erik Traut­mann / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Work­ers in­stall dock sec­tions at Veter­ans Memo­rial Park.

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