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Port Authority says State Pier construction schedule on track

New London — The Connecticut Port Authority on Monday authorized its chairman to secure an agreement with a company that will oversee the estimated $157 million redevelopment of State Pier.

The unanimous vote by the authority’s board of directors to hire a construction administrator demonstrates continued momentum for the project in the face of worldwide disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Port Authority Chairman David Kooris.

The project to create an offshore wind hub is expected to start early next year and finish in 2022. Activity could start before year’s end with demolition and remediation of existing structures and stockpiling of construction materials.

The state of Connecticut is redeveloping State Pier into an offshore wind staging area as part of a public-private partnership with Denmark-based Ørsted North America and Eversource.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on the federal permitting process, however, has so far led to a delay in one East Coast offshore wind project. Shutdowns at wind turbine manufacturing facilities and delays in the transport of parts are reportedly creating obstacles for offshore wind projects worldwide.

Ørsted, with multiple offshore U.S. wind projects in the planning stages, announced recently that its Skipjack Wind Farm project off the coast of Delaware and Maryland would be delayed by a year.

"As the federal permitting timeline evolves, Ørsted is now receiving its federal Notice of Intent for the Skipjack Wind Farm later than originally anticipated. As a result, Ørsted has determined that moving Skipjack Wind Farm's anticipated completion date from late 2022 to the new target of the end of 2023 puts us in the strongest position possible to deliver a successful project,” Ørsted said in a statement posted on its website.

“Ørsted remains firmly committed to working with our federal partners to complete Skipjack and provide clean, reliable offshore wind energy to 35,000 homes in the Delmarva region,” the statement reads.

Ørsted is involved in other projects in New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Virginia.

Kooris said he can’t speak to the Skipjack project but said port infrastructure work, like the project planned in New London, is proceeding independently of wind farms and “remains on track.” He doesn’t expect delays in permitting at the state or federal level.

A representative from Ørsted, which is scheduled to present its quarterly financial report to investors on Wednesday, was not immediately available to comment.

The construction administrator, or owner’s representative, for the New London project is a key element in the upcoming work and will oversee all aspects of the project, a tight timeline being one of the top priorities, said Joe Salvatore, a program manager for the Connecticut Port Authority.

Twelve firms responded to a request for proposals issued in March.

A panel that included Salvatore and representatives from the Department of Administrative Services, Office of Policy and Management and Northeast Offshore whittled the field to four firms and ranked them.

The authority on Monday authorized Kooris to negotiate and enter into a consulting services agreement with the one of the following companies: AECOM Technical Services Inc., AI Engineers, Downes Construction Co. or WSP USA Inc. Negotiations are proceeding with the top-ranked firm, Kooris said. The port authority’s board will eventually vote on the contract. Money for the harbor development project was already approved by the state legislature.

The state’s bond commission earlier this month approved disbursement of $30 million of previously approved funding toward the project. Kooris said there is an additional $35 million authorized by the legislature in the bond bill earlier this year that hasn't yet been bonded and won't go to the commission until the cost of the project is better known.

While the Port Authority approved the pier redevelopment plan in February, the City of New London has yet to finalize a host community agreement with Ørsted-Eversource. New London Mayor Michael Passero has said he has sought to recoup an amount equal to taxes and state payments in lieu of taxes on the tax-exempt former state property that is now owned by the port authority. Negotiations, he said, have stalled since the COVID-19 pandemic.

g.smith@theday.com

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