NEW BEDFORD – Environmental Protection Agency approval of the widely touted South Terminal project is imminent, officials said this week, but its costs will likely run far higher than initially stated.
The EPA will likely give the go-ahead to development of the 28.25-acre site within weeks, said Richard Sullivan, the state’s Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
The project is designed to make the city’s port capable of handling the large, heavy parts associated with offshore wind turbines and is part of a broader effort by Massachusetts to capture expected growth in the wind power industry.
“It is a good economic development strategy which Gov. (Deval) Patrick has really modeled here in Massachusetts,” Sullivan said.
The price tag for the South Terminal development, which includes a 1,200-linear-foot bulkhead, was initially stated in 2010 at $35 million but could cost as much as $100 million, Sullivan said, citing additional fees on top of construction costs for permitting, land acquisition and dredging.
Those costs will be borne primarily by the state, said spokesman Krista Selmi in a follow-up conversation, adding that the estimate was “premature.”
“We don’t have that final cost. It’s a little premature to put it together,” she said, adding that some of that money would return to the state once private facilities start renting the space.
Right now, funding for the project comes from a pledge of $29 million in state bonds for two years in a row, said Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which is managing the bidding process, has also committed $6 million, with an additional $4 million possible, he said.
“Depending on the price tag in the end, we might need to actually pass additional bonds in the Legislature,” Cabral said, noting that despite the increased cost, he continues to back the project. “I think the investment is well worth it.”
If approved, the project will go out to bid, with the goal of starting construction in the spring, said Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny, D-New Bedford, although he warned that developers shouldn’t start “licking their chops.”
“Anything over the current commitment I will be scrutinizing skeptically,” he said. “I would be very concerned if the project costs start to approach that $100 million figure.”
In 2010, officials estimated South Terminal would provide about 200 construction jobs and around 700 once Cape Wind, the presumptive first tenant, is in place.
A public commitment as large as South Terminal only works if private investment follows and the job-creation boasts can be backed up, Montigny said.
“The private companies have to be absolutely committed before all of the money is in the ground,” he said.
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