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DRVN Enterprises formally objects to proposed draft decision on State Pier

New London — DRVN Enterprises says it should have the opportunity to operate at State Pier during and after a construction project to upgrade the pier into an offshore wind staging area and is formally objecting to a draft decision on the project.

The Connecticut Port Authority, though, is arguing that DVRN does not have legal standing to object because it no longer has an interest at State Pier.

DRVN Enterprises, which stored and distributed salt at State Pier until being forced to leave in February, recently submitted an objection to a proposed draft decision on the Connecticut Port Authority’s Water Quality Certificate application for State Pier.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Connecticut Port Authority jointly submitted on April 26 an “Agreed Draft Decision” that recommended the issuance of a final permit for work related to the State Pier and submitted it to DEEP’s hearing officer, who is expected to issue a proposed final decision, said CPA Executive Director John Henshaw. Interested parties then had an opportunity to respond to the document.

On May 3, DRVN Enterprises President and owner Steve Farrelly submitted an objection to the "Agreed Draft Decision" and said it “fails to address how it has made/will make accommodations to DRVN as an existing water dependent port user.”

Farrelly wrote that the goals for the State Pier project, as listed in the 2018 Request for Proposals, include “maximizing cargo and other marine activity flow through the State Pier Facility,” maximizing economic impact, and serving “the existing customers of the Port, as well as related businesses that are responsible for its ongoing success and growth.” Farrelly said the draft decision addresses how to accommodate commercial fisherman, another water-dependent user of the facility, but does not mention DRVN as a water- dependent user.

“DRVN must be entitled to accommodations and the opportunity to remain at the New London Port and continue to conduct its business operations during the project construction and beyond,” Farrelly wrote. He added that he is asking for corrections to be made to documentation submitted to the CPA “to allow the Hearing Officer to make a decision based on the truth.”

An agreement allowing DRVN to use State Pier concluded at the end of February. Farrelly, who could not immediately be reached to comment on Monday, told customers in February that DRVN would “no longer be operating in the port of New London due to the unfortunate events that have unfolded in the last year and a half” and said DRVN had a contingency plan in Albany while the company worked on a permanent plan.

In a May 6 response, DEEP and CPA disagreed with statements in DRVN’s objection and said that DRVN has stopped operating at State Pier and had no “specific legal interest or rights to continue its business at State Pier.” The CPA and DEEP say that DRVN maintains the Agreed Draft Decision “is somehow insufficient for not considering its interest specifically in the water-dependent uses section, when it has already been legally established and determined in this matter that DRVN has no current, specific interest at State Pier.”

The document from DEEP and CPA added that “DRVN has no specific interest that needed to be addressed as a water-dependent use, but the issue of a future salt business at the State Pier was sufficiently addressed anyway. There is nothing in the Objection that warrants any serious consideration or the scheduling of a discretionary hearing or any further proceedings or submission by the parties.”

The document said the objection mentions the Request for Proposals, which was not included as part of the record.

The decision to hold a hearing on DRVN's objection is up to DEEP Hearing Officer Brendan Schain since “DRVN is an intervenor, not an intervening party,” DEEP spokesman Will Healey said by email.

Schain is slated to review the documents and issue a directive regarding next steps on May 21 or earlier.

Healey said the hearing officer outlined the steps in an order last week: “Upon reviewing the Agreed Draft Decision, DRVN’s objection, and any responses to the objection, the hearing officer will determine whether to hold a hearing on the objection; and determine whether the parties or intervenors must answer any questions relating to the Agreed Draft Decision. The hearing officer will issue a directive setting out his determinations, any questions that must be answered, and the schedule for any future proceedings in this matter, on or before May 21, 2021.”

Healey said no other objections have been filed beyond DRVN’s and the deadline to file objections has passed.

New London, an intervening party, informed the hearing officer that the city will not have a response, said Healey.

New London Mayor Michael Passero said the city was disappointed that mitigation credits for the State Pier project were not earmarked for other projects in the Thames River, such as the proposed dredging of Alewife Cove. But by and large, he said, the city is satisfied with the preliminary report and is determined not to file any objection.

The DEEP had issued a tentative notification to approve the application for environmental permitting for work that includes site improvements to State Pier, dredging and installing a bulkhead. A public hearing and an evidentiary hearing with experts were held in March and the Port Authority is awaiting a final decision from the DEEP.

The state has an agreement with Ørsted and Eversource for the redevelopment of the pier, and the state said last month that the State Pier project is estimated to cost $235.5 million.

Port Authority Executive Director John Henshaw said the board agreed last week to meet more frequently over the next eight weeks to approve work projects for State Pier, and will hold special meetings every other Tuesday at noon, if a regular meeting is not already planned. The board will next meet on May 18.

“Work packages will continue to be approved incrementally, in line with available funding and existing permits,” Henshaw added. “The project remains projected to be substantially completed by August of 2022."

k.drelich@theday.com

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