NEW LONDON — With only 10 days before a deadline to vacate State Pier, the Connecticut Port Authority offered a limited extension on Tuesday to a salt distributor and two commercial fishermen who had been told to leave no later than July 31.
The deadline was extended at the request of the users, which at the time could be granted by the terminal operator Gateway, according to Andrew Lavigne, manager of business development and special projects at the Connecticut Port Authority.
In February, Danish wind giant Ørsted and partner energy provider Eversource reached a final agreement with Gateway Terminal and the State of Connecticut for redeveloping State Pier into an offshore wind staging facility, a joint $157 million public-private investment that will include heavy-lift capabilities. The permitting process for the project began in 2019.
At the port authority meeting on Tuesday, Acting Chair David Kooris said that DRVN Enterprises, which has stored about 90,000 tons of salt on site at State Pier, must move from its location by July 31, even if it is to another temporary location on State Pier.
“The salt pile cannot remain in its present location past the end of this month because there’s necessary testing and boring that needs to take place within that footprint to remain on project schedule and that’s been made very clear and reiterated repeatedly,” said Kooris.
Kooris said the port authority has been working to identify an alternative location on the property that could “potentially allow for a modest extension of time,” contingent on no new deliveries, limited access to the waterfront and a limited duration.
“The [end] date, if we can agree on one, would be absolutely final because of the construction activities that need to start elsewhere on the property,” said Kooris. “We met with representatives with DRVN yesterday to determine whether or not that could work physically.”
Whether the new location will work operationally for the project and its contractors will be determined in the next few weeks and the result will be announced at the next board meeting, Kooris said.
“We will not force vacating prior to the 31st, although as I said, relocation and movement of the salt pile is essential to the project timeline,” Kooris said.
For the two commercial fishermen located at State Pier, AECOM engineering company is working on an assessment of new dock locations within New London harbor, both short- and long-term. The port authority originally hired AECOM for permitting and pre-development and has extended that contract.
Possible locations include spaces in New London and elsewhere, both public and private, which the New London Port Authority helped vet.
“The New London Port Authority indicated there may be near-term accommodation potential in their public facilities once it’s clear that a long term plan is in place,” said Kooris. “Similarly, there is not significant opportunity for extension, but while we work through these options, we don’t expect vacancy at the pier right on July 31.”
Also on State Pier is the joint venture of Skanska construction company and Trevcon II, which signed with AECOM in October 2019, to perform shaft and bulkhead work for the South Yard Assembly Building at Electric Boat in Groton.
Kooris said the port authority was working to find a way to extend the time for Skanska and Trevcon II while also meeting the project objectives and timelines for Ørsted/Eversource.
“It’s a big property and there are some ways in which we can nuance and sort of move things around to squeeze out a very modest amount of additional time and we’re doing our best to do so,” he said. “But I just want to make very clear that it will not be long term and not without modifications because the operations that are taking place in existing locations [on the pier] cannot continue without impacting the project.”
In February, Kooris said that the new State Pier facility must be completed by August 2022.
Last week, New London Mayor Mike Passero said he believed the fishermen would be allowed to stay until the port authority finds comparable dock space for them.
“I’m assuming that they are not going to be forced out because it’s illegal as far as I know. It’s a water-dependent use,” he said.“Right now I’m under the impression that they will remain there until the Connecticut Port Authority gets its act together and finds a home for them.’
Passero said he was in constant contact with the two commercial fishing companies, “advocating on their behalf.”
“As far as I’m concerned, the Connecticut Port Authority has had plenty of time to develop a relocation plan for them and why that hasn’t happened, I don’t know,” he said.
Gateway is required to maintain a port security plan on State Pier for the duration of the Electric Boat contract with Skanska and Trevcon II, meaning that a July 31 eviction of the commercial fishermen doesn’t really make sense, said Passero.
“As long as Skanska is operating there, there is no reason to move the commercial fishermen because they have to keep the port security plan in place,” he said.
The initial version of this story attributed the March extension to COViD-19. Connecticut Port Authority’s Andrew Lavigne later contacted us to say that the extension was at the request of the users and was unrelated to the pandemic. We have revised the story to reflect his comments.