Once $93 million, improvements to the controversial State Pier in New London have now increased to $255 million, but the chairman of the Connecticut Port Authority on Thursday assured the State Bond Commission that the $20 million it approved for the public-private partnership should finally ready the site for new life as a hub for the budding wind-power industry in Connecticut.
But the two Republicans on the Democrat-dominated board, Rep. Holly Cheeseman of East Lyme and Henri Martin of Bristol, voted against the added funding after extensive questioning over the project, which became part of a wider, still-active federal investigation into school construction projects throughout the state.
Cheeseman and Martin, top Republicans on the tax-writing legislative Finance Committee, complained that it was the third time the authority has requested more funding for the public-private partnership among the Port Authority, North East Offshore, L.L.C and Gateway New London, L.L.C. to create a modern, heavy-lift port and prepare the site for hundreds of new jobs in wind power.
“I wonder if someone can offer some reassurance that this is the last time we are going to be asked to increase funds for this project,” Cheeseman said.
“This is the final tranche of funding,” David Kooris, board chairman, said the $20 million includes dredging silt around the pier to allow and keep a few million dollars as a contingency as the work heads toward completion at the end of February, 2023. “All aspects of the project are now contracted. We do not anticipate any more requests.”
“I had heard that assurance at other meetings,” Cheeseman replied, asking what kind of federal support was offered. Kooris said that the prior presidential administration did not prioritize the potential of wind power and the request was denied. “That window has closed.” He noted that the upcoming dredging of New Haven Harbor is funded at 80 percent by the federal government.
The project had originally been scheduled for completion at the end of August, 2022. “We had about seven months of permitting delay associated with really two factors,” Kooris said. “One, the Army Corps (of Engineers) process taking longer than anticipated, but prior to that the state process was challenged and appealed at every step, which added considerable delay.”
Making the berth at the pier deeper is required for the first American-made offshore-wind installation vessel, under construction in Texas, to make New London its first port-of-call from 2024 to 2027. Lease payments over the first decade of the wind-power hub will total $2 million a year, Kooris said, adding that 200 jobs will be associated there as well as the wind farm is developed in the Atlantic Ocean off the South Fork of Long Island.
Kooris, said the original $93-million estimate from 2019, before he joined the board, was not detailed enough for the project, which then rose to $157 million and finally $255 million. “To be totally frank, there probably should have been more nuance conveyed at that time; that it was a preliminary estimate based on 10-percent drawings…that it did not include all the soft costs and the contingencies,” he said.
Another big change, totally $35 million was the result of moving the so-called heavy-left pad from the South side of the pier to the east side so that the existing ferry operations were not crowded.
“The evolution from $157 to $235 (million) is frankly a little more difficult to explain.” Kooris said. “It is the difference between engineered cost estimates that were vetted by third parties and actual bid prices we received from contractors. The truth of it is the estimates were off and when the market told us the actual cost of implementation it was higher.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding