Residents of East Boothbay were surprised on November 11 by surveyors and a drilling crew investigating three possible cable routes for the New England Aqua Ventus offshore wind project. NEAV – a partnership between Maine Prime Technologies, Diamond Offshore Wind and RWE Renewables – installs a 654-foot turbine atop a floating concrete hull designed by the University of Maine Composites about two miles south of the island of Monhegan. The turbine will be connected to the Central Maine Power grid with a 20 mile submarine cable landing at the Bigelow Laboratory campus where an underground cable will run to the Boothbay Harbor substation at the intersection of highways 96 and 27.
The proposed cable routes all run from Bigelow Lab to School Street, with the first and second routes going left on Murray Hill Road and the third going to Ocean Point Avenue to the substation. The first proposed route splits onto Sunrise Road and the second continues onto Mass Avenue and to Virginia Street. The two proposed routes touch Ocean Point Road where they continue to the substation.
Surveying and drilling of the roads began on the day of the publication of the press release announcing it, dated November 9. The statement said work would continue for the next two weeks. SGC Engineering performs the surveys and Ransom Engineering performs drilling for soil and soil testing.
Boothbay Town Manager Dan Bryer said last week he had four residents calling or coming with concerns. However, on November 15, nearly a dozen others had come to seek information and share their concerns. “I probably know as much as you do,” Bryer said. “Perhaps less.”
Bryer said that since the cable lands on private property and will be buried along a series of state-identified utility rights-of-way, no one has to seek permission from the city or notify the city of anything. Code enforcement officer Jason Lorrain said he had only received one application for a permit to cut down certain trees.
“Once people are surprised by something, then naturally they’re going to be reactionary, which we are seeing now,” he said.
Murray Hill Road owner Nat Wing said his concerns were access to water for at least eight homes that have front yard wells, one of which is about 12 feet from the edge of the road. If the project managers go for the first proposed route and continue with the underground cable, then blasting of the ledge will be necessary, he said. “You may be lucky with nine out of 10 wells, but the last one could be a problem. “
Wing also said access to Virginia Street could be an issue due to an easement created by six homeowners in 2006 to allow access for emergency vehicles and therefore residents of Ocean Point would not be stranded. if access to Ocean Point Road was cut off. “(NEAV) should get us to accept access that would allow them to blow up what we won’t let them do given the danger of the wells.”
Mass Avenue owners Chris and Cherry Goodwin were shocked to learn that surveying and drilling was taking place without notice. The couple said the history of the project’s management transparency issues leads them to question whether waiting for the area’s summer residents to leave to do the surveying was a conscious decision.
“I mean, maybe we read in it, (but) maybe they wanted to sneak it up when no one was around,” Chris said. “They couldn’t tell us why they were doing the polls, they just said we were told to do it. The main concern for us is the lack of transparency and the fact that no one has told anyone. “
Diamond Offshore Project Director Duncan McEachern said he has attempted to disseminate information about the project at all stages, Bryer said. The Boothbay Register contacted McEachern who deferred to NEAV spokesperson Dave Wilby. Wilby said the purpose of the investigation is strictly to obtain information that will influence all future decisions about where the cable will go. He said the investigation and drilling would also help find the safest and least disruptive way to lay the cable.
“Until more is known, it is premature to speculate on the exact destination of the route and what will be needed to bury the line, but the goal is to use utility corridors pre-existing undergrounds, ”Wilby said. “It would take two years for an installation to happen, and the process during that time involves continuing to work with the community, especially those along potential routes.”
Bryer said he is keeping in touch with concerned residents of East Boothbay and with House District 89 representative Holly Stover, who recently worked closely to arrange a meeting between Diamond Offshore Energy and local residents. Stover said she had previously helped bring together four concerned residents and two representatives from NEAV to discuss their concerns.
Stover said there had been attempts last week to improve communication, but they were “around the time” when work had already started.
“From what I understood from the residents with whom I spoke, the lack of communication and the lack of information generated a lot of mistrust… And there is a difference in communication when you are told things versus things that are made to you. I think in this case, because of the lack of communication, people rally around the idea that it is done to them. Examples of this are, without warning, seeing workers in your front yard surveying and doing work you didn’t know was going to be done… When it’s your home and your front yard, it’s very personal for you and your family. Your home is your sanctuary and when you feel threatened there, it’s no surprise to me that people react to this lack of communication.
Stover said a meeting will be announced in the coming weeks that will bring together representatives from NEAV and residents of East Boothbay to discuss the project.