The Day – Connecticut Port Authority Gets Final Permit for State Pier Work

New London – The US Army Corps of Engineers this week issued a key federal permit authorizing the start of long-awaited work at State Pier in New London.

The permit, dated December 16, allows for the demolition of portions of the existing pier, dredging, installing bulkheads and backfilling of 7.4 acres between the two piers to create a new central pier area.

The permit is the final approval required for the Connecticut Port Authority to begin part of the work needed to transform State Pier into an offshore wind hub. The port authority’s board of directors has cleared funding for the upcoming work, which is being managed by the construction and engineering company Kiewitt.

The State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection issued a state permit for the same work in August. The state decision resisted an appeal by former State Pier tenant, DRVN Enterprises. Other permits made it possible to work on ongoing projects related to State Pier improvements.

Andrew Lavigne, director of business development and special projects for the Connecticut Port Authority, said there would be an update on the project discussed at Tuesday’s regular board meeting of the authority.

Offshore wind partners Ørsted and Eversource have teamed up with the state to fund the $ 235 million redesign of State Pier as a staging area for several planned offshore wind farms along the east coast. Ørsted said the project is expected to create 460 construction jobs and 100 offshore wind jobs and boost the local economy.

Critics of the project have said most of the jobs are temporary, and the leasing of the jetty by the offshore wind industry will serve to block traditional freighters and a variety of economic opportunities there.

Ørsted and Eversource, in a joint statement, said they “are proud to be Connecticut’s partner in tackling climate change, supporting economic development and creating jobs through offshore wind and state redevelopment. Pier “.

“We appreciate the US Army Corps of Engineers’ comprehensive review of the Connecticut Ports Authority permit application and commend the CPA on this important milestone,” the statement said. “With the receipt of permits from the Army Corps, State Pier has lifted the last remaining major regulatory hurdle, and construction of the entire project can now proceed. “

The federal permit comes with a set of conditions. The Connecticut Port Authority must conduct a formal shipping safety risk assessment that takes into consideration Navy vessels, ferry traffic, electric boat operations, and commercial and recreational vessels in the river. Thames.

In addition to the planned increase in activity at State Pier, the facility will accommodate a $ 500 million, 472-foot-long wind turbine installation vessel named Charybdis. The ship is expected to use State Pier to transport and install turbines in conjunction with Eversource’s offshore wind projects in Rhode Island and New York. The discussion on navigation risks was discussed during a public hearing held by DEEP.

No work must be done from February 1 to May 31 to protect fish habitat, under the conditions described in the permit.

The Connecticut Port Authority is also to purchase 3.7 credits from the Connecticut In-Lieu Fee program, a compensatory mitigation measure established by the Connecticut Audubon Society for the preservation and restoration of wetland and waterway resources. . This will cost $ 1.74 million and is one of a number of other expenditures planned by the Harbor Authority.

State Senator Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, as she defended the offshore wind farm, said she remained skeptical about the cost of the project. Planned renovations to State Pier were initially estimated at $ 93 million and have increased several times in recent years.

“I am worried about the increase in the cost of the project,” she said. “It would be my biggest concern. We have seen an increase in costs compared to the increase in costs on this project.

The state legislature passed a bill earlier this year that seeks to ensure greater oversight of the port authority. The quasi-public agency has come under scrutiny in the past for mismanagement and lack of financial and personnel policies and procedures. Port authority officials said they had put in place a series of checks and balances to ensure greater transparency and were under the leadership of the National Bureau of Policy and Management and the Department of Administrative Services.

But Osten said concerns remain about the authority’s ability to handle a project of this scale, especially in light of the delays that have arisen. The Connecticut Port Authority had missed several deadlines with Ørsted / Eversource to obtain the federal permit from August. Both sides, however, remained optimistic about the project.

New London Mayor Michael Passero, initially critical of the project due to lack of state compensation in New London, struck a host community deal with Ørsted / Eversource in February. The city can expect annual payments of at least $ 750,000 over a seven-year period, with provisions for more, under this agreement if the project proceeds as planned.

Upon hearing of the permit, Passero said the city was happy to help move the project forward. The city secured a seat on the port authority’s board of directors under a law passed earlier this year.

“The city is just very happy that this last piece is in place and that the project can now take its full dimension,” he said. “It’s a great Christmas present.”

[email protected]

Maria D. Ervin