Gales Farry site (Credit: Google Map Data, 2021)

Massachusetts Company Floats Plan for Dredging Hub on Thames River

GALES FERRY – A Massachusetts-based developer floated preliminary plans to repurpose the former Dow Chemical plant as a hub for its dredging business in Connecticut and New York, and to expand the dock on the site to potentially support ancillary work for offshore wind development out of New London.

In a presentation to the Ledyard Planning and Zoning Commission last week, Harry Heller, an attorney representing Cashman Dredging and Marine Contracting, said the company is still “a long way away” from closing on the purchase of the property, and that even after that, it takes  years to develop sites like this. But the company wanted to present its plans to the Planning and Zoning Commission to get its sense of potential roadblocks in the process.

Heller said Cashman intends to use the site for its marine operations in Connecticut and New York, which will include bringing barges and dredging equipment to the site. Cashman also intends to rebuild and extend part of the docks on the site, both to accommodate its own business and the tanker that brings materials to AmSty.

Allen Perrault, vice president at Jay Cashman – the parent company of Cashman Dredging – said the site is attractive because of its proximity to open water and the ocean. He said the site would be like one Cashman has at the Quincy Shipyard in Massachusetts, where the company runs its own business, and also finds other water-dependent tenants to help support the dock.

The Quincy Shipyard is home to Cashman, General Dynamics’ Bluefin Robotics, and a holding facility for the New England Aquarium. Perrault said Cashman only needs about 10-15 acres of the 164-acres site for its own uses, and AmSty leases another 25, leaving a significant amount of potential for other uses. 

“We feel the beauty of this site is there is 25-30 feet of water in the Thames River at that point, and we have a yard right now in Staten Island and the yard in Quincy, Massachusetts, and this would be in the sweet spot in the middle of the two,” Perrault said. 

Perrault said they see potential in offering space for “ancillary uses” to the wind turbine work at the New London State Pier after that site is redeveloped.

“When you have a site like State Pier for offshore wind, there’s a lot of ancillary work that comes out of that,” Perrault said. “Obviously that site is being designed to handle turbines themselves – the large blades – but there’s a lot of other work that will be necessary, whether it’s stone, electrical contractors and others.”

Clint Brown with Loureiro Engineering said they had “pre-application” meetings with DEEP, where the department said they saw no significant issues with Cashman’s plans, and recognized it was a water-dependent use consistent with the Coastal Management Plan.

Heller said Cashman has experience in developing waterfront properties with environmental issues and regulatory constraints: including redeveloping a former oil refining site at the port in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and developing an offshore-wind focused port in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

The former Dow Chemical plant on Route 12 in Gales Ferry – now owned by Dow spinoff Trinseo – has access to the Providence and Worcester Railroad, and a significant dock on the Thames River, which now hosts a tanker that brings raw materials to Americas Styrenics [AmSty] once a month, Heller said.

Heller said the polystyrene manufacturer Americas Styrenics, which is a joint venture between Trinseo and Chevron, would continue to operate if Cashman is successful in buying the property.

The site does have environmental contamination, Heller said. Dow and Trinseo both have remediation obligations, which Cashman is negotiating with them now, he said. Heller said Cashman plans to bring dredged material to the site, where it would be mixed with concrete and used to “cap” contaminated areas as part of the remediation approved by DEEP. 

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Nate Woody said they have been looking for a reuse of the property since Dow started its exit, and that reuse for industry makes sense considering it has been an industrial site for decades.

Woody said that as the proposal moves forward, the commission will have to look at the allowed uses in its regulations in the industrial zone, as some of what Cashman is proposing likely falls outside what the commission contemplated when it wrote the regulations, but generally the proposal seemed to fit the site. Woody said the biggest concern would be making sure the commission has the right engineering support to review any applications for the proposal.

“I don’t see any major roadblocks that would prevent this type of thing,” Woody said.

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