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New London and Connecticut Port Authority again at odds on funding

New London — The Connecticut Port Authority is seeking a home for two soon-to-be displaced commercial fishermen at State Pier and is considering using $3 million promised by Danish wind giant Ørsted to fund the move.

Mayor Michael Passero says that’s a problem since the money was committed to the city specifically for infrastructure upgrades at the pier at Fort Trumbull that the city now leases to New London Seafood and is home to its own commercial fishing operation.

The $3 million in question, which Ørsted has not yet delivered, was originally committed to New London by Deepwater Wind, a company later bought by Ørsted. Ørsted has agreed to honor Deepwater’s commitment.

Passero said the money was committed to the city while Deepwater Wind was seeking a state investment into offshore wind power through a bid with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.

David Kooris, the authority's interim chairman, informed the board at its meeting last week that the money could help solve the problem of relocating the commercial fishermen.

Passero said he expects no state involvement in the use of that money.

“It’s not their money. What they’re basically talking about is using that money to solve a problem at State Pier — their problem,” Passero said.

Passero has been frustrated about New London being sidelined from discussions surrounding the $157 million development of State Pier into an offshore wind hub and a lack of a substantial state funding commitment to offset costs of hosting a massive offshore wind facility that does not pay taxes. State Pier is located on land formerly owned by the state and recently transferred to the Connecticut Port Authority.

Tenants at State Pier, including two commercial fishing outfits, are being displaced to make way for the start of construction. Hazardous materials abatement work and dismantling of structures at the site has begun in anticipation of demolition activities.

The fishermen have until July 31 to move out and Passero has previously called on the state to fund their move, offering the city’s waterfront as a possible spot to build docks for the fishing boats.

The fishermen have talked about the possibility of moving to Fort Trumbull but there does not appear to be any ongoing talks.

Kooris said the authority last week voted to approve an extension of a contract with AECOM, which is performing permitting and pre-development work at State Pier.

AECOM’s scope of work included “the assessment of multiple locations in the harbor (including the pier at Fort Trumbull) that could be improved to meet the needs of commercial fishermen,” Kooris said in an email.

Once the study is completed, Kooris said, “we can have a conversation of what should get built.”

The Connecticut Port Authority hasn't taken any vote on use of the $3 million, Kooris said, “because it's not ours and we don't control how it's expended.”

The state Department of Economic and Community Development manages the process of ensuring that Orsted meets the commitments made by Deepwater Wind as part of its successful bids to DEEP and its PURA approvals.

“That said, we don't think it makes sense to have independent conversations about how — on the one hand — improvements should be made in NL harbor to benefit commercial fishing with that $3 (million) and — on the other hand — the location where these two fishermen should be relocated,” Kooris said in his email.

“We should have a single conversation about physical enhancements for the benefit of commercial fishing in NL harbor and where these boats end up should certainly be part of that conversation,” he said.

g.smith@theday.com

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