By Seth Daniel
Wynn Boston Harbor received its final state environmental approvals on Monday afternoon from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) when it accepted the comprehensive Section 61 environmental report – an acceptance that looks to have freed up a crucial piece of MBTA land that will serve as an entrance to the resort casino.
The approval, however, does not put to bed the appeal by Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone of Wynn’s Chapter 91 Waterways license. That issue is now set for a public hearing on June 2 with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Wynn officials said they are beginning the process of getting the deed back to the MBTA land and expected the process to take a week or so. The land has been in escrow since last summer.
The MGC approval Monday was the concluding analysis of more than three years of cumulative studies that covered more than 20 detailed environmental and traffic plans. It follows the recent approval of Wynn’s Section 61 findings by all relevant individual state agencies, including:
•Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)
•Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
•Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA)
“The MGC’s final approval marks the successful conclusion of the most detailed, thoroughly analyzed and publicly scrutinized environmental study of any private development in the history of the Commonwealth,” said Robert DeSalvio, president of Wynn Boston Harbor. “With the exception of some specialized permits, every applicable state agency has now vetted and approved our mitigation commitments and cleared the way for us to begin construction.”
According to an MGC official, as well as the MEPA certificate issued last summer, the acceptance of the Section 61 findings was the key that unlocked the land deal with the MBTA. The land, which was purchased by Wynn from the MBTA under some controversy, had been placed in escrow as a cure-all to the problems that occurred with the sale – problems that the MEPA process review indicated were caused by lack of communication between government bodies. The MEPA certificate required that the land be held in escrow until, and if, Wynn Boston Harbor got approval of its Section 61 findings – which are seen as the final leg of the state’s environmental permitting process.
With all Section 61 approvals now in place for Wynn Boston Harbor, the only significant barrier to the start of construction is Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone’s ongoing appeal of Wynn’s Chapter 91 license by the DEP.
The information that informed Wynn’s Section 61 report totaled more than 10,000 pages and was meticulously reviewed over a three-year span by three federal agencies, 12 state agencies, 14 municipalities, 20 local organizations and thousands of residents at multiple public meetings. Responses to more than 275 letters and 1,500 comments from agencies, elected officials, municipalities, organizations and individuals were also considered in the process that led up the Section 61 findings.