NEW LONDON – The total cost to taxpayers for redeveloping the State Pier into an offshore wind hub remains unclear just weeks before the Connecticut Port Authority plans to hand over operation of the site.
Port Authority Executive Director Ulysses Hammond said during a Tuesday meeting of the board that they will know the final cost – and the total contribution from the private wind energy partnership of Eversource and Ørsted – in May.
Authority officials have said for months that those answers are imminent as they negotiate the final price of the State Pier redevelopment with the contractor Kiewit.
The project was originally pegged at $93 million, but the most recent estimate from March 2022 placed the cost at $255.5 million. Since last October, it has been clear that the cost would continue to rise above that figure.
In December, Hammond announced that the “final path forward” for completing the redevelopment could be ready by January, but officials have declined to provide any further cost estimates, citing ongoing negotiations. Months later, Hammond again said he was optimistic the negotiations were nearly finished, and that the board could see a final price at a special meeting next month.
“We have actually come to the point where a significant amount of the work and negotiations have taken place, and we are now what we consider to be very, very close now to actually completing the negotiations,” Hammond said. “As a matter of fact, we anticipate that those negotiations will be completed over the course of the next few weeks.”
Nearly a year ago, board Chair David Kooris promised the State Bonding Commission the additional $20 million the authority was requesting at the time would be the “final tranche” of state funding, but unless Eversource and Ørsted agree to pay for the entire cost increase beyond $255.5 million, the state will need to approve more funding to complete the ongoing work at State Pier.
At Tuesday’s Port Authority meeting, a frequent critic of the project, Kevin Blacker, questioned how long Hammond and Kooris would be taken at their word after repeated promises that the release of the final figures was imminent.
“The fact that there’s not another amendment to the [price] on today’s agenda leads me to believe that you guys are going to further withhold information from the public, and keep the magnitude of the cost overrun until you get some ships here, so that you can try to muddy up the waters and have David Kooris down there getting his picture taken, and make it seem like what you guys are doing has not been a complete failure, complete boondoggle,” Blacker said.
Officials say that operations at State Pier will begin in May.
According to Hammond, the portion of the pier needed for staging the 130-megawatt South Fork Wind farm off Long Island will be ready for assembling 12 wind turbines this summer. Hammond said the authority will turn over 60 percent of State Pier to port operator Gateway Terminal in the next week or two.
Kooris said the authority expects to receive its first quarterly lease payments for the pier shortly after that – the first of the $500,000 quarterly lease payments, along with the final year of lease payments up front. Combined with a possible second quarterly payment before the fiscal year ends at the end of June, he said the authority would receive between $2.5 million and $3 million before July.
“There’s a conversation that we need to have as a board around how we are going to pivot our operations post-port construction, and how we want to evolve given these additional resources,” Kooris told the board’s finance committee.