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New Bedford facing Cape Wind fallout

The blow delivered by National Grid and NStar to Cape Wind extends to New Bedford’s Marine Commerce Terminal that would have served as the major staging area for construction of the wind farm.

“It’s a major setback for offshore wind and what was expected to be a key source of work for the terminal,” said Michael Goodman, executive director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Cape Wind had originally signed a two- year, multi-million dollar lease to use the facility, which is projected to have a 100-year lifespan.

Construction on the terminal is scheduled to be completed within weeks. The city has put out a request for proposals for a terminal operator with experience in offshore wind staging and multiple kinds of cargo logistics.

New Bedford leaders said that the state planned the terminal with more than the wind project in mind. “There are other uses and other projects that this can help support,” said Roy Nascimento, president of the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It is important to disabuse people of the idea that this major state investment was all about Cape Wind,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. “Clearly, we would want Cape Wind to get down to business right now. But the long term prospects for the Port of New Bedford are very encouraging.”

The deep-water facility, which is located at the top fishing port in the United States, has good access to major highways, which also allows New Bedford to diversify the types of cargo the port can handle, he said.

“Goods that arrive at Conley Terminal in Boston are placed on trucks that have to wind their way through South Boston and then effectively park themselves on the Southeast Expressway. Those delays cost money,” Mitchell said. In New Bedford, he added, goods can get onto trucks that can get to interstate highways faster.

Two years ago, three freighters unloaded cargo in New Bedford. Last year, 13 ships docked in the city. The port expects 18 vessels in 2015. “Every one of those vessels by our calculation injects about a quarter of a million dollars into the local economy,” Mitchell said. Most of the ships carry general cargo like agricultural products that require special handling—which creates more jobs for local workers. “Offshore wind, if you think about it, is just another line of cargo business,” he said.