BEVERLY — National Grid is planning to hold a “virtual open house” on Nov. 30 to answer questions about a controversial project that would replace an existing underground electric transmission cable that supplies power to nearly 50,000 people on Cape Ann and parts of the North Shore.
The project, which would dig up several streets in Beverly, received approval from a state board last month, but Beverly residents and city officials have voiced strong concerns about its impact on residents along the route.
John Lamontagne, a spokesman for National Grid, said Wednesday that the company is holding off on construction so it can answer questions from the public. He said the company will appear before the City Council and will hold the virtual open house “to hear from residents and speak to their concerns.”
“We’ll determine next steps after that,” Lamontagne said.
The project would replace an existing underground electric transmission cable. The new cable would start in Salem near the Beverly-Salem bridge and then be routed through several streets in Beverly to connect to a substation near Boyles Street in the Cove neighborhood.
National Grid said the current cable, which is located along the railroad tracks, was installed in 1971 and needs to be replaced.
Several residents spoke out against the project at a Beverly City Council meeting Monday, saying they knew little about the size and scope of the work until recently. Many pointed out that National Grid is calling the project a “replacement,” not a relocation from along railroad tracks to under city streets.
“I was one of the people who were duped by the wording,” Lothrop Street resident Eugenie Roy said. “It’s very misleading.”
Rabbi Alison Adler, of Temple B’Nai Abraham, said the temple’s board of directors voted unanimously to ask the City Council to halt the project. The transmission line would run in front of the Lothrop Street synagogue.
“I’m deeply concerned about the egregious violation of trust and due process and have questions about the health and wellbeing of our neighborhood, including environmental impacts on the earth that is connected to our home and where we pray and where we take care of our children,” Adler told city councilors.
National Grid has said it is not feasible to put the new transmission line in the same location along the railroad tracks. The company says the work would have to be done overnight when trains are not running, and that there is not enough room along the tracks to install the new cables without taking property from homeowners.
Beverly Mayor Mike Cahill said at Monday’s meeting that the city is planning to hire its own consultant to assess the feasibility of installing the cable along the railroad tracks, which he said would be the better route for the community because it would cause less disruption.
“There are a lot of things that were suggested about how hard it would be to build on the rail bed that we know, when it’s important enough to the MBTA, that work gets done,” Cahill said.
The city already hired a consultant to review National Grid’s study of the possible impact on people of electromagnetic fields from the underground cable. The consultant said that magnetic fields from the project would be less than levels that have been approved by the state in the past.
National Grid said people who have questions about the project can call a toll-free number, 833-238-4743, or email info@BeverlyRegionalTransmissionReliabilityProject.com.
Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.