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Construction Barges in the Broad Canal

On May 15, 2001 Mirant Kendall, LLC was granted a license by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to install new generating equipment and related structures. Special condition 1 of the license was that they “shall construct and maintain in good repair a publicly accessible pile-supported waterfront walkway along the Broad Canal”. The last sentence of that section says “Said walkway shall be constructed and opened to the public no later than the issuance of the City of Cambridge Occupancy Permit for the Combustion Turbine Generator building”.

The City of Cambridge’s Board of Zoning Appeals, under the benevolent guidance of Supreme Leader For Life Bob Healy, has granted them temporary Certificates of Occupancy as a matter of course ever since in violation of this license and the city variance granted by the same board. Mirant tried repeatedly to weasel out of their obligation using whatever arguments their crack team could come up with. These included the post 9/11 terrorism threat (while leaving their front and side doors unlocked and unattended and the main gate wide open), offering Bob Healy a half million dollars for alternative use in East Cambridge (which our dear leader said would be spent anywhere but), and an offer to help the DCR build a foot bridge across the Lechmere canal within 100 feet of the Land Boulevard bridge. Needless to say, these were met with the type and amount of reaction that the East Cambridge Planning Team and Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods are known for. Some of those meetings were a real hoot. No rotten vegetable matter was hurled, but it’s lucky there wasn’t any on hand. The VP in charge of that effort has since moved on.

About two years ago, they changed their tune and started a policy of reconciliation and apparent honesty. They presented new plans and actually worked with concerned citizens towards mutually acceptable compliance. They even started cooperating with their neighbors at the western end of the canal so that both companies improvements would be coordinated.

Until I saw the barges in the canal on New Years Day, I really didn’t believe that they would build anything there. We were told that construction on the First Street entrance to the walkway was to begin last October, and that didn’t happen, but now it seems that they have begun to spend real money on the project. Unfortunately, after watching how developers and the city work for so many years, that is the only kind of evidence that has actual value.

The Army Corps of Engineers only allows pilings to be driven in the Charles between November and April so as to disturb aquatic life as little as possible, so I expect to see (and hear) a lot of work in the near future.

If my friends and neighbors had not been vocal,vigilant, intelligent, persistent, and WILLING TO SHOW UP OVER AND OVER AGAIN, we would never have seen anything happen here. It’s barely begun, and a long way from done, and we are going to be watching closely. Even if it does get finished to spec., there are ongoing maintenance obligations that will need to be monitored.

Does it ever end? As long as we have a city government that refuses to do enforcement without being sued, it is left up to the citizens.


Submitted by Anonymous on

So that's what it's going to be - another walkway! You've got to be kidding. Isn't there already a walkway on the other side? What a waste - we should have taken them up on the foot bridge over Land Blvd. That would have at least been worth something since walking across 4 lanes is not easy and also really not very safe with obstructed views of eastbound traffic.

Which bridge over Land Blvd. would that be?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Really! I work across the canal and I can't believe the $$ and effort being spent on this! There is a walkway just a 150 feet on the other side of the Canal. This whole project sounds more like the punishment of a company than an actual project that would better the community. Don't you think that Cambridge could have taken the $500k and used it more wisely than the construction of a duplicate walking path? What's next, a second walkway along the charles atop 1000 steel piers? This is such a waste.

There is a small "pocket park" being constructed at the First Street end, and the project ties in at the other end with the canoe / kayak launch and new park being built on the parcel between the power plant and Livelux.

When a private party is granted a license under Chapter 91 to occupy and build on state owned filled tidelands there is a requirement that the public good be served along with the private. That land was never purchased from the Commonwealth, and they can't be required to provide amenities elsewhere. Mass. DEP and MDC decided that it would be a good thing to have Mirant contribute to the goal of surrounding the Charles with public access paths. You may have noticed that there are presently paths on both sides of the Charles. Is that a waste? I like the idea of increasing public access to my waterways. I like the idea of putting a nicer walkway on the sunnier side of the canal. I like the idea of tieing two new parks together with a boardwalk.

I hope that when it is all done you will like it.