Protect Sudbury launched its inaugural “Ask an Expert” speaker series with State Legislators on March 9th. At the meeting, Representative Carmine Gentile and Senator Jamie Eldridge reaffirmed that they align squarely with Protect Sudbury’s mission to “prevent all power lines along the MBTA right of way (ROW),” regardless of if they are underground or overhead. Senator Mike Barrett, however, indicated that he remains open to Eversource’s underground proposal along the ROW through conservation lands, much to the consternation of the gathered crowd.
Central to Senator Barrett’s argument was the assumption that utility siting always make someone unhappy. He seemed to view the situation as an us-versus-them scenario where his job was to advocate for the best outcome for his own constituents (Sudbury voting districts 1, 4, & 5). To be sure, a Senator’s job is to represent his constituents. However, Sen. Barrett’s assertion that Eversource’s proposed third choice, an under-street route, affects his constituents more adversely than the underground ROW route reveals two things: a misreading of the depth and breadth of opposition to Eversource throughout all of Sudbury and a surprisingly uncritical view of the process that got us to this point. Thankfully Sen. Barrett also said he would keep an open mind to feedback from his constituents. Here’s why Eversource’s proposal, overhead or underground, anywhere on the MBTA right of way, is a bad idea for all Sudbury residents, whether or not they abut the route.
Town-Wide Issue 1:
Character of the Town as a Whole
The proposed route along the MBTA right of way crosses six iconic ways in Sudbury: Landham Road, Boston Post Road, Union Ave, Horsepond Road, Peakham Road, and Dutton Road and on into our most heavily used conservation land. Regardless of whether the clearcut is 82 feet (overhead) with the visual pollution of 100 foot tall towers, or 35 feet (underground) with blasting trenching, fill issues and soil and water contamination, both plans leave a scar through the heart of our historic town and protected open space.
Town-Wide Issue 2:
Herbicide Use Near our Drinking Water and in our Natural Areas
The MBTA route, because it’s through a natural corridor, and not an under street route, requires ongoing vegetation management (ie killing trees, shrubs and other “incompatible” vegetation) in order to keep the route free of trees (in the case of overhead wires) and roots (particularly in the case of underground). Eversource does this using herbicides, including glyphosate, a controversial weed killer. Glyphosate is classified as a possible carcinogen by the WHO and currently faces a wave of legal challenges. The superintendent of Sudbury’s Water district has expressed her discomfort “with a proposal for wide scale herbicide use in any manner in the District’s Zone II.” Just to be clear: 1.7 miles of Eversource’s proposed route is within Zone II of the Sudbury Water District’s gravel pack wells, which are the sole source of drinking water for 18,000 people. Herbicide use for the under street option is zero: there is no vegetation management plan for under street cabling. Why take a chance when there’s an alternative?
Town-Wide Issue 3:
Sudbury Values Preserving Open Space
The clear cut of trees in conservation lands would disrupt the natural dynamics of one of the region’s largest natural areas, the convergence of Hop Brook Marsh, Memorial Forest, the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, and Marlborough-Sudbury State Forest. As a town, we have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over several decades to protect this land. Many local, state and federal environmental organizations and agencies have also expressed their opposition to Eversource’s proposal, citing “wholesale destruction or alteration of key natural features.” The town may or may not want a bike trail along that corridor one day, but it’s pretty clear from the 900 people who showed up to oppose Eversource at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting in October 2016, that if we do, it will be on our own terms, not a utility’s.
Five Districts, One Town:
Sudbury may be divided into five voting districts, but we can put forth a united front as a town. If you live in Senator Barrett’s district (1, 4, 5 – list of street names here), contact him today and remind him why siting it on the MBTA right of way is a bad idea, regardless of whether it’s overhead or underground. Pick up the phone, write a letter or send an email – here’s the contact info:
Mike Barrett, Masss State Senator
24 Beacon St.
Boston, MA, 02133