National Grid filed paperwork late last week to appeal the decision by the state calling on them to build and maintain a pedestrian path along the Malden River as part of a Chapter 91 Waterways licensing process.
National Grid pointed to the estimated cost of the pathway, which they believe would be about $7 million, as one reason they are appealing.
This summer, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued an order that National Grid be required to build the pathway – a key piece in what has been a major effort to built an uninterrupted Greenway along the River.
National Grid said they support the Malden River Greenway goals to expand recreational access along the River. They said while they would be willing to let the community build the pathway, they didn’t think it should be on the utility to do it.
“Over the last two years, the Company has engaged with local stakeholders and offered to give the local community the rights to develop a walkway along the river as a community project instead of a utility project,” read a statement from National Grid. “However, we have an obligation to provide safe and reliable service to our customers at reasonable costs. The Company believes that the Department of Environmental Protection’s requirement that National Grid builds and maintains a pathway along the Malden River exceeds the scope of its authority under the Commonwealth’s statute governing waterways and tidelands, known as ‘Chapter 91.’ Therefore we have appealed DEP’s written determination and draft Chapter 91 license. National Grid remains willing to continue discussions to develop a solution that meets the desires of the community while also being fair to our customers.”
The National Grid property has been a key missing link on the Everett/Malden side of the Greenway plan, as many other pieces have quickly and notably come together to make the vision start to become a reality. On the Medford/Malden side, many of the pieces of the Greenway there have already been developed and are a model for what the Everett side could look like.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said he was outraged by the appeal.
“I am shocked and disappointed by National Grid’s decision to appeal DEP’s requirement for them to build and maintain a public pathway along their property,” he said. “Every other property owner along the Malden River has either built or committed to build a pathway. For more than 50 years, National Grid has blocked access to the Malden River and have built a prison like structure on their property complete with barbed wire fencing and spot lights.
Instead of a seamless Greenway that would serve tens of thousands of residents in Everett, Malden and Medford, National Grid wants to block access and continue the inequity our residents have faced for decades. This is an outrage and I will work with our neighboring communities and advocates to force National Grid to fulfill their legal and moral obligation to build this path.”
One of the most vocal advocates for mandating the pathway has been Conservation Law Foundation (CLF).
Deanna Moran, director of environmental planning at CLF, said National Grid’s appeal is a big missed opportunity to engage with other property owners and the community on reclaiming the riverfront.
“This is absolutely an environmental justice issue,” she said. “These communities have historically been barred from the waterfront and haven’t had the opportunity with the waterfront unlike other more affluent communities have. For National Grid to set out the whole time is not only disappointing but really unfathomable…There is a lot of momentum in the community. National Grid is part of that community whether they like it or not. All of the other property owners around them are making great efforts and they are sitting it out. It doesn’t look good for them…From our perspective, we see this as a great opportunity for National Grid to be a good neighbor in Everett and contribute to this strategic vision.”
National Grid is calling for DEP to either approve the public viewing area that was originally proposed, and is estimated to cost $60,000, or to allow the community development of the path.
The appeal will go to an administrative hearing before the DEP, similar to the process that Encore Boston Harbor went through with Somerville a few years ago.