Courtesy of DRVN

Salt Business Files Objection to State Pier Permitting

The owner of a road salt distributor forced off of the New London State Pier to make way for offshore wind developers filed an objection with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, to permit approvals failing to accommodate his business.

Steve Farrelly, owner of the road salt distributor DRVN, which has rented about 3.5 acres on the pier since 2014, said in a formal objection filed with the department that he had been given to understand that existing tenants on the pier would be able to stay through the redevelopment and beyond.

Instead, DRVN was told to leave or be evicted and have its property, including the salt pile, seized, Farrelly wrote.

Farrelly objected to a draft permit from DEEP that would allow the Port Authority to begin dredging around the port and filling the area between the two piers. DRVN filed the only objection to the permit, and the deadline has passed, according to the department.

Because DRVN is an “intervenor” and not an “intervening party,” the hearing officer can decide whether the objection warrants a hearing. The officer will meet with the involved parties to review the objection and decide the next steps, according to the department.

In his objection, Farrelly wrote that the project plan doesn’t conform with the original request for proposals to redevelop the port. 

That request listed goals including maximizing the amount of cargo flowing through the pier, and maximizing the number of jobs created from the pier. The request also required any submitted plan to describe how current businesses will be retained, and identifying potential areas for growth – including offshore wind, Farrelly wrote.

“The RFP requires any proposed bid to serve existing customers and businesses of the Port and must make accommodations that allow for their ongoing success and growth in conjunction with any proposal such as wind energy,” Farrelly wrote.

The agreement between the port authority and the port operator Gateway Terminal stated that the operator would maintain “sufficient cargo facilities” to provide DVRN with public access to the port. 

Farrelly claimed that the port authority’s permit applications were insufficient, and by giving Eversource and Orsted exclusive use of the State Pier, denied his business “public access.”

Farrelly also said that statements in the permit application claiming that no vessels “berth between the [Admiral Shear and Central Vermont Railroad piers] on a regular basis,” and that the area is not critical to the pier’s long-term operations, are false — violating a condition of the draft permit.

“Barges such as those employed by Blakeslee, Skanska, or even Gateway regularly used the west side of the Admiral Shear Pier and/or the east side of the CVRR Pier until a few months ago,” Farrelly wrote.

According to Farrelly, the proposed redesign would leave only one berth capable of accommodating a full-size vessel, and one capable of accommodating a smaller vessel, and would not accommodate for barges while the berths are in use.

“Aside from the interior berths being used on a regular basis, they also have proven extremely useful during less regular but historically common occurrences,” Farrelly wrote.

Farrelly also claimed that the permit application should address the potential adverse impacts on “water-dependent” activities, including DRVN’s business. 

Farrelly noted that Gateway Terminal – the operator of the New London State Pier since 2019 – is also the operator of the Port of New Haven, putting Gateway in direct competition with DRVN. 

Last winter, New Haven was the only option for companies to buy road salt, leading to long lines at the port. Opponents of the State Pier redevelopment project rallied at the State Capitol in March to criticize that “monopoly” on salt.

At a Port Authority Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday, Kevin Blacker, a Noank resident and critic of the port authority, said it was a bad idea to remove utilities and the bridge that serve the port until the dredging permit was actually approved, citing Farrelly’s objection.

“[The objection] is gonna throw a huge monkey wrench into your permit process and the timeline, and the expectation of whether your project will even be able to occur,” Blacker said.

Port Authority Executive Director John Henshaw could not be reached for comment on this story.

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