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BRSA nears decision on fate of turbine

The Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority (BRSA) will likely make a decision on whether to proceed with its highly contested wind turbine project by the end of the summer, according to BRSA Executive Director Robert Fischer.

The turbine, which was first proposed in 2008 and has since been stalled by numerous legal challenges and protests, suffered approximately $1.6 million in damages while stored at the Port of Newark during superstorm Sandy, Fischer said.

“We have our insurance carrier reviewing any potential insurance we may have had, as well as any insurance polices from the contractor [charged with storing it],” he said.

“By the end of the summer, we should know how much of that, if any, was covered by flood insurance. At that point, the [BRSA] commissioners would be able to make a decision on which way to go.”

Last summer, the BRSA contracted Conti Corp. – an international project management and construction firm – to ship the components of the 380-foot-tall industrial wind turbine from a storage facility in Newark through Monmouth County to the authority’s headquarters in Union Beach.

On behalf of the BRSA, Conti placed security bonds with municipalities along the delivery route – which wound through Marlboro, Matawan, Hazlet, Keyport and Union Beach – to protect against any damage caused by the convoy of nearly 75-ton trucks.

The shipment was blocked by a state Superior Court injunction, however. An appeals court ruled that the BRSA could not build the turbine without the approval of the Union Beach Planning Board.

The nearly 200 tons of turbine components remained in Newark throughout the year as BRSA officials continued to petition for the project, which they said would provide up to 50 percent of the sewage facility’s power. On Oct. 29, however, both the storage facility in Newark and the BRSA facility were rocked by Sandy, causing upwards of $20 million in damage to authority infrastructure.

Since then, BRSA officials said, the turbine project has “been on the back burner.”

This month, Conti began attempting to recover the security bonds from various towns, prompting questions about the fate of the turbine project.

In Keyport, Borough Administrator Lorene Wright said on July 16 that she contacted the authority, seeking a status update after Conti requested the return of its $10,500 security bond.

In Marlboro, Business Administrator Jonathan Kapp said the township would return Conti’s $10,000 bond later this summer at the request of the contractor.

Conti’s representatives did not return a call seeking comment.

Fischer said he was unaware that Conti was attempting to recoup the bonds, but assumed the move stemmed from the circumstances that have grounded the turbine project for at least the time being.

“There does not seem to be a likelihood shipment would take place in the near future,” he said. “My initial thought is that this is a contractor expense that [Conti is] trying to minimize.”

In the meantime, BRSA officials continue to re-establish services and rebuild infrastructure.

Without a working incinerator, the authority continues to ship processed sludge to the Stony Brook Regional Sewerage facility in Princeton at a cost of about $130,000 a month, Fischer said. A $1.3 million project to install a replacement incinerator is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

A $450,000 project to repair the authority’s administration building is also underway, funded through surplus funds and insurance proceeds, Fischer said.

According to U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6), the Federal Emergency Management Agency committed more than $1 million to the BRSA last week for repairs to the main pump station and other facilities. The announcement comes on the heels of a 15 percent increase in the federal share of storm-related reimbursements, which Fischer said saved the BRSA close to $3 million.

“We were happy to hear that,” he said.