MWRA Advisory Board Seeks to Stop Cable Charge

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

The MWRA Advisory Board is calling upon state officials to protect ratepayers against a $150 million charge to move a cross-harbor cable owned and operated by Eversource and its subsidiary Harbor Electric Energy Company (HEEC).

The sole customer for HEEC is the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA).

Due to a court order, MWRA ratepayers will be paying $150 million over 30 years.

“This is the second time ratepayers will pay for a cable to Deer Island,” said Joseph Favaloro, executive director of the MWRA Advisory Board.

The first cable ran from K Street to the reserve channel to Deer Island. Now it will go past Conley Terminal across and deeper in the channel to Deer Island.

The cable runs and carries power from Boston to the MWRA treatment plant on Deer Island. The cable needs to be buried 60 feet deeper because it is too close to where the proposed dredging would occur.

“I am outraged. Dredging of the harbor benefits MassPort. Through increased shipping and cruise ships traffic they will significantly increase revenue. It’s not enough that the federal government is paying $225 million for their project and that the Commonwealth is paying $75 million – they needed to extort another $8 million on the top of $150 million from MWRA ratepayers through their negotiations with Eversource to mitigate their temporary inconvenience to dig a trench on the edge of Conley Terminal,” Favaloro said.

The $350 million dredging project is already being paid for through taxpayer monies in federal grants, state bonds and through Massport. The project is to make the shipping lane deeper for bigger ships.

 “Eversource/HEEC negotiates an $8 million charge for the easement at Conley Terminal South Boston, a cost that is passed on to MWRA ratepayers,” explained Favaloro, “Eversource is responsible to their shareholders and therefore collects 9 percent on these negotiated costs to Massport.”

“The Advisory Board’s calculations are misleading in that we negotiated in good faith a project financing structure with the MWRA that was both favorable to the customer and is less than half of our typical return on a project of this size,” said Priscilla Ress, Eversource spokesperson.

“We agreed to further lower the overall project costs by $17.5 million representing a credit for the early retirement of the old cable.  While the Advisory Board takes issue with an $8 million payment to MassPort, it must be recognized that it is compensation for the continued use of MassPort property for the cable to serve Deer Island.  It’s also important to note, the construction of the new cable project has gone exceedingly well.  It’s expected to be completed ahead of schedule and on or below budget.”

“The Advisory Board is working with our communities to send petitions asking the Legislature and the Governor to withhold the remaining state funds until Massport rethinks their decision,” said Favaloro.

 “We realize the dredging is great for the Commonwealth and Massport,” Favaloro said. “Yet it’s another cost to MWRA communities and their ratepayers.”

“We respectfully disagree with Mr. Favaloro’s characterization of this issue. The installation of the new cable was necessary because the existing cable was not installed as permitted, said Fred Laskey, executive director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA). “We believe we negotiated a favorable agreement for our ratepayers. The bottom line is that we now have a new cable, which also includes redundant fiber-optic lines for Deer Island, that will serve our ratepayers for the next 45 years,” said Fred Laskey, executive director of the MWRA.

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