An Energy Facility Siting Board hearing is underway this morning on burying waterfront power lines in Providence-East Providence. More than 1,700 people have signed a petition to urge the governor and the mayors of Providence and East Providence to move forward with this project.
National Grid will provide updates on the project’s cost estimates and feasibility studies. The feasibility studies would look at drilling borings under the Providence and Seekonk rivers, among other requirements.
More than $17 million have been raised to bury the power lines, said David Riley, co-chair of Friends of India Point Park, a citizens group that supports the project.
“There’s an opportunity to use this money that has been accumulated for a dramatic impact that will improve the waterfront in the capital city of the ocean state for the next 100 years,” said Riley.
Riley said he’s encouraged that National Grid will have an updated cost estimate. He said the last cost estimate was done in 2007. Talks about pursuing this project date back to 2002.
Riley said there are many reasons to support the project.
“In terms of economic development, there are multiple studies that indicate proximity to power lines – high voltage power lines like these – or the visibility of the power lines reduces property value by up to 30 percent,” said Riley.
Riley said the Providence, East Providence and the state would benefit from increases in property value if the power lines are buried and as the I-195 land is redeveloped.
“It will enhance the public space in India Point Park that’s used by at least 100,000 people per year, according to the Parks [and Recreation] Department,” said Riley. “And also it would protect the waters from outages from storms, and that part of the bay there is the bull’s eye of storm surges over the years.”
Riley notes 10 million people a year, excluding commuters, travel the I-195 to go to and from Cape Cod.
"And if we can make that space more attractive and have more development there, that gives people a reason to stop and spend some money, instead of just driving through," said Riley. "And that would be a huge benefit for the city and the state."
The Board has required National Grid to report on its progress at hearings and in written reports submitted every 45 days. It has also authorized National Grid to spend up to $1 million to complete the estimate and engineering work, using funds set aside for the burial project.