The BPDA board voted today to being negotiations with the operator of the Chelsea salt pile to begin building a similar facility on the South Boston waterfront - as well as a facility capable of handling the shipment of giant turbine blades that could one day power New England from offshore towers.
Eastern Salt Co. of Chelsea already has Massport approval to lease roughly several acres of its land in the Raymond Flynn Marine Park. The BPDA board vote means the city agency that oversees the overall marine park will begin negotiating with Eastern for a roughly 2.6-acre parcel the BPDA owns.
Eastern did not have specific plans for the land, but said it would start off by adapting part of the land to store salt for use in winter road operations and part of the land for the company's lesser known operation: Bulk shipping of other large cargoes, such as aggregate materials and the unloading of large items for construction and road projects that are not easily transported on crowded urban roads. Company president Shelagh Mahoney said a third part of the land would be set aside specifically for shipping for wind-turbine components, in particular the giant blades that would spin at the top of offshore platforms.
Mahoney said that while salt would be a priority initially, she expected turbine shipping would begin to become more important as more turbines are built offshore. The US has lagged behind Europe in wind generation, but the Biden administration has pledged to spur additional facilities, such as the Vineyard Wind proposal.
Dan Adams, an architect for Eastern said the site is "really uniquely positioned to bring Boston very strongly into [the wind-power business] as it movers north."
Mahoney added that the Chelsea salt facility would remain in operation.
In addition to its existing bulk-stuff operations, Eastern would also look at repairing the North Jetty dock that would be capable of handling "Panamax" ships - which are the largest ships that can travel through the Panama Canal - and has begun talking to Boston Ship Repair about helping to renovate its facilities, all of which would help create a new "multi-port" facility able to handle numerous marine-based operations.
If the company and the BPDA can reach agreement, it would get a ten-year lease, with three potential ten-year extensions. Eastern, which would spend several million dollars equipping the site, would pay the BPDA roughly $202,000 a year in rent for the BPDA part of the site.
Board member Michael Monahan tore into the proposal, however, saying the land should be put out to bid again, because the company has yet to provide details on just what it would do on the land, because he doesn't see many good marine-related jobs with the proposal and because the last thing South Boston needs is a 30-foot-high salt pile, no matter how colorful the cover on it might be.
There's really nothing concrete on what you're going to put there," he said. "I don't see the jobs. even if you loaded that place up with salt." He added he hopes that we'll eventually see some new technology developed that means the end of the need for salt for clearing roads in the winter, what with the way the salt blows around and gets into local lakes and the ocean.
The BPDA has put the parcel out to bid several times in recent years. The most recent RFP brought three proposals, from Eastern, from a company that would use the land as a warehouse facility for DHL and the Finishing Trades Institute of New England, which proposed building an educational center for glaziers and similar trade workers. BPDA staff recommended Eastern because it was the most marine-intensive of the three proposals, for land in an industrial and office park that's supposed to be focused on marine businesses.
Board member Ted Landsmark agreed with Monahan's focus on jobs and moved to amend the proposal to enter into negotiations with Eastern to include discussions of job training.
The board voted 3-1, Monghan opposed, to begin negotiations.