State Pier occupants granted 120-day extension to stay in New London

New London — State Pier operator Gateway has extended the deadline for port tenants to move out, giving commercial fishermen and a major local road salt distributor an extra four months to find a new home.

The extension is not coronavirus related, rather the result of negotiations among Gateway, the Connecticut Port Authority and tenants who were expecting to be displaced March 31 to accommodate the offshore wind industry. Construction activity associated with a $157 million planned overhaul of the port is expected to begin later this year as it converts into a wind turbine staging area for joint partners Ørsted and Eversource.

Connecticut Port Authority Chairman David Kooris said while pre-construction activity at the pier still is expected to start soon, the extension was made possible in part because of the ongoing work by the construction company Skanska, which is using the pier as a staging area for work across the river at Electric Boat in Groton.

Skanska, in a joint venture with Trevcon II, is performing work as part of EB’s expansion to accommodate assembly of ballistic missile submarines. Skanska, in an October news release, said the contract is worth $89 million. Kooris said Skanska, while it is at the pier, is able to cover the basic costs of keeping the facility open, expenses such as security and insurance.

Companies occupying State Pier, including Gateway, had planned to leave the site by March 31. The agreement between the Connecticut Port Authority and Ørsted-Eversource has halted all incoming cargo ships and the ability for Gateway to recoup costs of running the pier.

“We wanted first and foremost to figure out if there was a way to accommodate them further,” Kooris said.

Gateway President Jim Dillman said DRVN Enterprises, two commercial fishermen working off CV Pier and Blakeslee Construction all will have 120 days beyond the original March 31 deadline.

While there is a four-month extension, Kooris said all parties are clear that any further extensions are unlikely. Skanska's time at the pier also was extended through the end of July.

Chris Bachant, president of Carpenters Local 326, has extended membership with his union and work for all of the eight full-time longshoremen, members of the International Longshoremen’s Association 1411, working at the pier. There will be work while construction at the pier, expected to last two years, is ongoing. The 45 part-time longshoremen have either found other work or are looking for jobs.

DRVN still has a massive pile of salt, an estimated 95,000 tons, on site, which eventually will have to be moved. DRVN President Steve Farrelly said his company continues to look for a suitable alternative site.

“We are diligently looking for locations but the process for zoning and planning and any other permitting required in all towns for our use has slowed down dramatically due to the necessary precautionary (measures) being taken to date due to COVID-19 pandemic,” Farrelly said in an email.

Dillman and Farrelly would not confirm whether there is an existing agreement between their two companies that would allow Gateway to transfer the salt to its own operation in New Haven. Dillman said business with customers is private and covered by nondisclosure agreements.

Mayor Michael Passero said he has been working to find out if moving the fishing boats to Fisherman’s Pier, on the city’s waterfront, is feasible. He said the new extension buys some more time to work out those details.

“We certainly need more time because the city does not want to lose these commercial businesses and we are still actively working to find a solution so that they can remain in New London preferably, but most importantly a place for them to stay in business,” he said.

Kooris said while permitting is not yet in place for the full pier redevelopment project, some of the work expected to be accomplished in the coming months includes excavation, building demolition, test borings and other site preparation work.

g.smith@theday.com

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