By SCOTT JACKSON
City councillors approved Mayor Thomas Koch’s request for $250,000 in funding for the ongoing litigation over Boston’s proposal to rebuild the Long Island Bridge.
The council approved the request in an 8-0 vote on Monday, with Ward 5 Councillor Kirsten Hughes absent.
City Solicitor Jim Timmins, in a memo provided to the council, said the $250,000 would cover the anticipated costs of hiring engineers and legal counsel to make Quincy’s case against the bridge during the current fiscal year, which continues through the end of June 2019. About $150,000 of the money is expected to go towards engineering experts, with the remaining $100,000 for legal expenses.
“Boston’s attempt to reconstruct the Long Island Bridge involves multiple-agency permits: local, state and federal. Each of those permits involves processes that the city of Quincy will participate in, and that participation requires significant engineering expertise and the guidance of legal counsel experienced in this particular area of the law,” Timmins said in his memo.
Chris Walker, Koch’s chief of staff, previously said the city has spent $150,000 to date related to the bridge dispute. The funds spent so far have come from various line items in the budget, such as those for outside counsel in Timmins’ budget and a contractual item in the city engineer’s budget.
Quincy has retained the services of engineering firm Tighe & Bond and law firm Mackie Shea as consultants in the dispute over the bridge.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in January announced plans to rebuild the Long Island Bridge, the superstructure of which was demolished in 2015, and place a recovery campus on Long Island. Boston had hoped to start construction on the bridge next year and complete it within three years at a cost of $92 million.
Koch and other Quincy officials were quick to oppose the plan, citing the traffic impacts in Squantum.
The bridge project has already received approval from the Boston Conservation Commission, while the Quincy Conservation Commission rejected a permit for the new span. Both decisions are being appealed to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection; those appeals have been consolidated, meaning they will be heard together, Timmins said.
Matthew Beaton, the state’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, has determined the project does not require an environmental impact report pursuant to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act. Beaton, in his Sept. 21 ruling, said the project is similar enough in scope to the 2015 demolition of the bridge that it does not require a further MEPA review.
Quincy officials are looking to appeal Beaton’s decision, Koch said previously.
Ward 6 Councillor William Harris expressed displeasure with Beaton’s ruling at Monday’s council meeting. He questioned how the project could pass the MEPA process without Boston providing any details on what it plans to do on Long Island, which includes some 225 acres of land.
“I have to express my disappointment with the governor’s people for not going through a full environmental review and the decision made by MEPA,” Harris said. “That is one reason why the city has to pursue all legal options.
“There is a section of the MEPA law that you cannot segment a project. That is what Boston appears to be doing by attempting to rebuild the Long Island Bridge and not talking about all the other impacts that will occur when they develop the island.”
Harris said he planned to request Quincy’s delegation on Capitol Hill launch a full congressional investigation into the state’s decision. Harris wants a “thorough investigation of the possibility of any inappropriate action, or lack of proper actions, by state officials involved in the making of the decision.”
The project also requires a Chapter 91 license from MassDEP and a federal consistency review from the state Office of Coastal Zone Management. The U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers also have a role in the permitting process. In addition, Boston must go before the Quincy Planning Board and obtain a building permit from the Inspectional Services Department.