NEW LONDON — Representatives of the Connecticut Port Authority and the wind energy partnership between Eversource and Ørsted downplayed the significance of a delay in the permitting process with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redevelop State Pier.
A dredging permit was expected before the end of August, but that timeline appears unlikely – raising the possibility that the project could exceed a budget that is already being tightly scrutinized by state lawmakers.
Port Authority Executive Director John Henshaw said officials “remain hopeful” the permit will be approved shortly — if so, Henshaw said authority officials “remain confident that we can keep the project on budget.”
In a board meeting of the Port Authority on Aug. 17, Board Chair David Kooris estimated that the project’s hard costs totaled $202.5 million – about $1.5 million below the $204 million estimate — after accepting bids on each construction phase.
But Kooris cautioned that the budget can’t be finalized until the Army Corps permit is approved, and the board can finalize the dredging contract.
“The final [guaranteed maximum price] will be influenced by the permit timing, since some of the work anticipated a permit timeline that is not yet finalized or guaranteed,” Kooris explained at the meeting. “That’s a long way of saying, with all the work packages awarded, we are moderately favorable to the target [price], but the [price] will not be finalized until permits are in hand.”
It is also possible, given language added to the agreement in June, that Eversource and Ørsted could withdraw a portion of the $55 million contributed by the joint venture for the redevelopment of the pier. The pier is expected to provide a staging area to build Revolution Wind – a planned 704 MW wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island.
A clause added to the Harbor Development Agreement between the Connecticut Port Authority and the partnership between Eversource and Ørsted, allows the companies to withdraw any unspent funding after Aug. 31, if a series of conditions aren’t met by that date.
The last of those is the issuance of a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
On Monday, Army Corps of Engineers Senior Project Manager Diane Ray wrote in an email to Port Authority critic Kevin Blacker – copied to CT Examiner and other news outlets – that she did not anticipate deciding on the permit by Aug. 31.
Blacker has filed an objection to a memorandum of agreement between the Port Authority, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could not be reached by the Examiner on Monday.
Reached by email, representatives of both the Port Authority and the Eversource/Ørsted partnership downplayed the impact of missing the Aug. 31 deadline.
“Ørsted and Eversource are committed to helping build a robust offshore wind industry in the U.S. and the infrastructure needed to support it, such as State Pier,” a spokesman for the Eversource/Ørsted partnership said in an email. “The facility is poised to play a leading role in the industry’s growth in the Northeast and beyond as it supports the construction of our three projects, including Connecticut’s first offshore wind farm, Revolution Wind. We expect that the final Army Corps permit will be issued soon, and we will come together with the State to assess schedule impact – if any.”
Sent a list of questions, a spokesman for the Port Authority said in an emailed statement that the quasi-public agency is in “constant communication with our partners, and we remain hopeful issuance of the federal permit is imminent.”
If the permit is not issued before Tuesday, the Port Authority and the Eversource/Ørsted partnership will meet before Sept. 15 to determine an alternate construction schedule, cost estimates or funding plan, if needed.