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State Pier occupants granted another extension to stay

New London — The two commercial fishermen and a major local road salt distributor based at State Pier are once again being granted extensions to stay at the facility as plans for a finalized move are still in motion.

Pier operator Gateway is allowing DRVN Enterprises to remain on the premises for several more weeks, and it is negotiating an agreement to allow DRVN to stay through December to have more time to sell the 90,000 tons of salt it still has at the facility and find a new location, said David Kooris, interim chairman of the board of the Connecticut Port Authority, which is responsible for the care, custody and control of the port property.

Kooris said any new agreement would stipulate that DRVN could not bring any more salt to the facility. The company currently is in the process of moving its salt from its current location at the pier to what is known as the Central Vermont Railroad, or CV, Pier so that testing and boring can be done as part of the $157 million redevelopment plan to ready State Pier for use by the offshore wind industry.

The two commercial fishermen working off CV Pier also will be offered an extension, Kooris said, but that offer has not been formally made yet.

The extensions come as a July 31 deadline for vacancy at State Pier was looming. The original deadline was March 31, which was extended by four months in part because the port is still occupied by Skanska, a company using the pier as a staging area for the multimillion-dollar construction project at Electric Boat. Skanska was able to cover basic costs of security and insurance at the site.

The current agreement with Skanska goes through August, and the company might get a “modest further extension as long as their footprint can be managed in a way that doesn’t affect the (redevelopment) project,” Kooris said.     

The port authority previously had approved an extension of a contract with AECOM, an engineering firm initially hired to oversee permitting and predevelopment work at State Pier, to explore potential sites for the two commercial fishing outfits that have worked from CV Pier for nearly two decades.

Kooris said the fishermen will be able to stay at CV Pier on a month-to-month basis while the City of New London and the New London Port Authority find a location for them to relocate to in the short term, with AECOM still working on a permanent solution.

AECOM has identified at least four locations in New London: a spot under the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, two sites at Fort Trumbull and another on the city’s waterfront, at the end of the Bank Street Connector. Docks would need to be built at most of the locations, which would drive up costs.  The city’s port authority is likely to make recommendations to the Connecticut Port Authority on what is most feasible. 

New London Seafood owner Gary Yerman, whose operation has worked out of Fort Trumbull since 1989 and who has a long-term lease with the city, said there is room at his location for the fishermen but the pier is in dire need of infrastructure upgrades. He recently sent a letter to the two fishermen with rental estimates.  

“We could make accommodations but we’d have to make some alterations,” Yerman said. “We do have room for them and welcome them here.”

Representatives from the fishermen at CV Pier, Montville-based Donna May Fisheries and Waterford-based Out of Our Shell Enterprises, could not be reached to comment.  

Mayor Michael Passero said the pier at Fort Trumbull is in line to receive $3 million in upgrades. The money was first promised by Deepwater Wind and the commitment was later honored by Ørsted, which purchased Deepwater. There had been some controversy when the Connecticut Port Authority discussed using that money to solve the problem of relocating the fishermen. Passero said he has received assurances the money will be directed to the Fort Trumbull pier.

The only short-term solution to moving the fishermen, Passero said, is the Custom House Pier on the city's waterfront. He said the pier could accommodate the fishermen on a temporary basis but he expects a commitment from the port authority to relocate them permanently. Custom House Pier is the designated location for a new waterside restaurant, a venture that required numerous approvals and negotiations with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and other agencies. The restaurant is expected to move in next spring.

DRVN owner Steven Farrelly could not be reached to comment. The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments last month wrote a letter of support for DRVN to DEEP, expressing concerns about how difficult and costly it will be to procure salt during the winter months if DRVN were forced out of business. Farrelly has said he has yet to find a suitable location to move the salt and continue his business, given that it depends on access to the deepwater port.

g.smith@theday.com

j.bergman@theday.com

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