Quirk in Funding Eases Plan For Lieutenant River

Location of proposed project in Old Lyme (Credit: © OpenStreetMap contributors)


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OLD LYME — Under earlier rules governing a $1.6 million Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) grant given to Old Lyme in 2015 for dredging, the town will be able to redirect $256,000 of funding unused for the original project toward a plan to build a ramp and platform on the west bank of the Lieutenant River near Halls Rd.

The administration of the funds was moved from CTDOT to the Connecticut Port Authority after the town received the grant to dredge the Blackhall and Four Mile rivers. The port authority, which was created in 2014, became operational in 2016. Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder is currently Vice Chair of the port authority

After 2016, funding for projects completed under budget, like the dredging project, revert to Connecticut Port Authority’s Small Harbor Improvement Projects Program (SHIPP), said Andrew Lavigne, who oversees business development and special projects at the port authority. CT Examiner staff spoke to Lavigne by phone on May 30.

In this case, however, because Old Lyme’s grant predates control by the authority, the excess funds will be reserved for the town for other maritime projects, he said.

“That went through a public bid process, the bid came in below the U.S. Army Corps estimate and so that is how they came up with that remaining funds figure,” Lavigne said. “And it’s my understanding that the balance of those funds can only be used within the town so they remain designated by the bond commission to Old Lyme for maritime use. They can access those funds as long as all the relevant proposal’s procurement protocols are followed.”

Lavigne said the port authority created the SHIPP program to be similar to the CTDOT’s maritime grant program, with a few differences.

“The only real difference is because it was done by the bond commission through DOT, the excess funds remain designated to the town as opposed to when you do a port authority process now through SHIPP, it’s not just an Army Corps estimate, it’s a proper ‘bid not to exceed’ amount, so the processes are a bit different,” he said.

Under SHIPP, leftover funds return to the SHIPP fund account and municipalities can reapply during the next round of grants. SHIPP typically funds projects in smaller chunks, for example, first covering a study, or design, and later engineering, Lavigne explained.

“You’ll often see some of our first-round SHIPP projects applied for design and then it’s not until they complete the design phase that they can apply for engineering services,” he said.

Old Lyme did a three-phase feasibility study of the two rivers, which were becoming less navigable due to silt deposits.

In 2012, Residents approved a total of about $64,000 in funding, which was reimbursed by the state, for studies that included charting the depth of the two rivers, delineating the rivers’ silt composition and how much could be dredged, and deciding on the best removal methods.

Because of the timing, the state grant was an anomaly among the port authority’s list of funded projects, Lavigne said.

“I think this is the only one I’m aware of and that’s just because it was so close to the time the Port Authority was created, there was a little bit of a gap in between the time the legislature authorized the creation of the Port Authority and the Port Authority actually getting up and running,” he said. “This just fell into that interim, especially since it was a dredging project, and for that process the estimates for that are done through the Army Corps, so it’s a little bit of a hybrid project.”

Lavigne reiterated that Old Lyme must follow the port authority’s protocols for the release of the remaining funds.

“The CPA board would authorize an agreement for the expenditure of funds from that account, so the town would have to tell us how much they want and for what and again it would follow similar protocols where they would have to apply for design before they could apply for engineering, for instance,” he said. “We would make sure it was for maritime use and that they follow the sequencing for the bidding and the project.”

Under the SHIPP process, each phase of municipal maritime projects is dependent on a number of factors and does not guarantee funding, Lavigne said.

“It’s case-by-case, depending on the findings of the municipal study, and it’s a cost-share between the town and CPA, so it also may depend on the availability of funds in the town,” he said.

This story was corrected to reflect that the $64,000 of town funding was reimbursed by the state.