Blacker Urges Cooperative Approach for Thames River Site

Former Dow Chemical site in Ledyard, CT (Credit: Google Map Data)

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To the Editor:

Last night Jay Cashman’s team attempted to sell an angry crowd of 200 a plan to barge dredge spoils into Ledyard and truck them out through town.  Things didn’t go well for Cashman.

I hope they don’t get discouraged.

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The anger on display last night is easy to understand. Poor communication and aspects of the proposal that don’t fit, led the community to get their back up.  Over the past few weeks residents dug in, beginning the process to re-write zoning laws, coordinating acceptance of donations for a defense fund, shopping lawyers, and talking 22a-19 intervention.  

If Cashman was unaware how stubborn a group of Connecticut yankees bent on protecting their home town can be, they got a taste last night. Their project could easily join the ranks of the Groton Data Center or Mystic Oral School and suffer a quick, painful death at the hands of Public opposition

With the Oral School, Respler got the property for a buck. With the Data Center Thomas Quinn had minimal skin in the game. The difference in what’s unfolding in Ledyard is that Jay Cashman paid $5 million for the former DOW property. I hear Jay Cashman owns a castle in Ireland. Coming from a family of Murphys, O’Neils, Blackers and mules, I know a sure fire way to get a person’s Irish up, is tell them they can’t do something.  You don’t obtain the level of success Jay Cashman has without serious skill and determination.  A prolonged, contentious, years-long, knock down drag out fight, where both sides suffer, seems more likely than the quick easy victory enjoyed defeating Thomas Quinn, unless someone disrupts the trajectory. 

I believe Cashman is a company of good people. They believe in Ledyard enough to make a $5 million investment.  They are a capable and honest. Having them in the region would be beneficial on many levels.   

Our government is not fast and capable enough to respond to the problems climate change is creating and will create.  We will need the equipment, knowledge and workforce of private companies, like Cashman, to respond to the challenges climate change will create.  We need to develop new processes to remove contaminants from dredge spoils. We are going to need help cleaning up after more frequent, more intense storms predicted to accompany climate change.  We are going to need large volumes of physical material to raise critical infrastructure, roads, the Groton New London Airport (which is only 9’ above sea level) and private property.  We’ll need material for thin layer deposition of sediment on marshes which will not be able to naturally rise quick enough to keep up with the pace of sea level rise. And we’ll need material for constructing living shorelines, as well as beach replenishment.

In mitigating the extent of climate change we need to reduce transportation emissions by moving freight more efficiently. That means by rail and water. Dredging is a necessity.  Having a dredging contractor in the area will allow us to do it quicker, more efficiently, less expensively.  Cashman could provide a large amount of the material needed for the above mentioned uses.

It takes an incredible amount of energy to draw 200 people out of their homes to a 3 hour public meeting.  An equal amount of energy to purchase a property, assemble a team, prepare a project, and communicate it to the public.  All that energy will be wasted fighting each other if there isn’t leadership.  It’s not enough to settle for the lazy option of trucking dredge spoils to landfills.  It’s not enough to simply complain that what Cashman is proposing isn’t good enough. We should be helping Cashman develop the DOW site in a way that allows them to make money, maximizes tax revenue for Ledyard, and maximizes benefit to the region but minimizes adverse impacts on neighbors, the town, and other users of the Thames River.