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Redevelopment plan for State Pier expected to be more costly than projected

New London — For the past several months, those involved in negotiating the redevelopment of State Pier have worked to incorporate public concerns into a final agreement, namely maintaining and enhancing rail access at the pier and ensuring any redevelopment does not impact Cross Sound Ferry's operations, according to the chairman of the state port authority.

The result is a substantially modified agreement between offshore wind developers Ørsted-Eversource, the Connecticut Port Authority and State Pier operator Gateway that likely will cost more than the $93 million originally projected.

The port authority's board, one of the major players in the deal, still must vote on the agreement, which is in draft form and has not been released publicly. Chairman David Kooris said at a meeting of the board Tuesday at Fort Trumbull that the pending agreement satisfies concerns raised at a public meeting in September outlining the redevelopment plan.

"We heard the importance of coexisting with the ferries and we heard of the importance of the recent improvements to the freight rail," Kooris said. "While some may think we've been working for months on some secretive aspects of this agreement, we've been working for months to try to better address and incorporate what we heard from the public."

The burgeoning offshore wind industry has presented opportunities for State Pier, which is being envisioned as one of a number of ports in the Northeast to be used by the industry.

Ørsted-Eversource are seeking to use the pier in conjunction with their Revolution Wind Farm in federal waters south of Martha's Vineyard, which will supply 300 megawatts of offshore wind power to Connecticut. But, officials say, that requires a major remaking of the facility. Gateway, selected by the port authority last year to run operations at State Pier, would provide access to the facility for redevelopment.

The resulting negotiations have been complicated by issues with how the port authority was operated and pushback from stakeholders such as Cross Sound Ferry, which has concerns over the impact of the redevelopment.

The redevelopment has largely been negotiated behind closed doors, and that has caused public concern, as well.

The port authority's board went into executive session at Tuesday's meeting to discuss the outstanding issues being negotiated, such as cost share and timing.

Kooris had hoped the board would be able to vote on the agreement Tuesday, but that will not happen until next month at the soonest. He has promised to give the board 10 days to review the final agreement, and said he "remains hopeful" that the board will be able to vote on it at its next meeting on Feb.18, or possibly at a special meeting convened before then.

Kooris told the board publicly Tuesday that aspects of the redevelopment had to be redesigned to take into consideration rail and ferry operations. That has resulted in additional costs and may require additional development time, he said.

As of now, the port authority is on the hook for seeking any additional funding beyond the $93 million, but Kooris said the quasi-public agency, which receives $400,000 annually from the state in addition to revenue from State Pier, "cannot commit to money that it doesn't have."

The parties involved reached an initial agreement on redevelopment of State Pier for use by the offshore wind industry in May of last year. Much of what is in that 25-page document, which finally was released publicly last week, is included in the renegotiated agreement, Kooris said.

j.bergman@theday.com

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