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    Thursday, April 18, 2024

    Gales Ferry residents voice concerns on proposed dredging facility

    Ledyard — Roughly 250 residents, mostly from the Gales Ferry area, met face-to-face and virtually with officials who hope to build a dredging material processing facility on a portion of the former Dow Chemical plant property in town.

    Several members of the public aired their concerns during the sometimes heated meeting at the Ledyard Middle School Auditorium on Monday night, which occurred after a June 15 meeting on the project was canceled due to an overflow crowd gathered at the Bill Library.

    Officials with Cashman Dredging and Marine Contracting out of Quincy, Mass., purchased the 165-acre Dow site along Route 12 in Gales Ferry in May. The proposed dredging operation would use 10 acres of the property. A polystyrene manufacturer, Americas Styrenics, continues to lease 23 acres. The remaining land would be open to other tenants.

    Alan Perrault, vice president of Jay Cashman Inc., Cashman's parent company, outlined the proposed dredging facility while he and other project officials took questions during the more than 2½-hour gathering.

    Perrault said the proposed Gales Ferry Intermodal Facility would be a perfect complement to Cashman facilities in Staten Island, N.Y., and Quincy, and the site is in a strategic location to support the growing offshore wind and other marine-related industries.

    The project's website, galesferryintermodal.com, says the site offers many amenities suitable for the proposed dredging operation including: 850 linear feet of deepwater pier and bulkhead space, rail line access, signalized access to Route 12 leading to interstates 95 and 395, nearby heavy-duty power lines and barge loading and off-loading capabilities. It is the largest industrially zoned parcel of land in Ledyard.

    The Gales Ferry facility would process dredged material brought in by barge or scow, store it in 50-foot-tall covered piles, then ship it out by truck or rail to other sites within three to four months. The piles wouldn't be very visible from Route 12, due to the topographical grade, or elevation, of the site. The dredged material would mostly be stabilized aboard the barges by "de-watering" and then mixing it with cement before being offloaded. Any hazardous material would be shipped out of state.

    Perrault stressed dredged material comes under strict regulations regarding contamination, is tested frequently and "pre-characterized" to ensure no dangerous material is included.

    He said the dredging facility could receive material from the expansion of the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, New London State Pier development of a staging site for off-shore wind components and Cross Sound Ferry operations, among other sources. No contracts have been signed.

    Cashman officials said the Gales Ferry development should reverse the tax assessment decreases for the property. According to the Intermodal website, assessments over the past five years for the Route 12 location have decreased 33%, as the previous site owner tore down buildings on the property.

    "We believe we can attract quality tenants and create hundreds of job opportunities like we have previously on our other successful redevelopment projects," says a statement on the website.

    Residents, though, expressed skepticism about the project. Most concerns were about increased truck traffic on Route 12. Many people said the trucks will be slowing down at the Route 12 intersection with the proposed Gales Ferry site to turn in to the facility. They noted with the traffic from Electric Boat and the casinos, that could cause some problems in the area, especially when school buses are also on the road.

    Perrault said the Intermodal project is still in its early stages of development, and the traffic issue is being vetted. However, research done by a consulting firm hired by Cashman indicates the intersection at Route 12 can more than adequately handle the expected truck traffic generated by the project.

    "The intersection can handle what we're proposing, but we will be looking further," Perrault said. "Our analysis is accurate, both COVID and pre-COVID. I'm not saying it answers every truck transportation question someone has, as to the speed of the trucks coming in or leaving. But the capacity is there."

    He estimated that, at most, 150 trucks per day would be entering and leaving the dredging facility. "That's probably on the high side," he said. "A large percentage of the time it would be below that number. Could be a lot lower than that."

    He noted the dredging season in New England's waterways is only between October and February, which also would curtail operations.

    In an emailed statement after Monday night's meeting, members of the Gales Ferry Taxing District say they still have many concerns regarding the proposal. They claim the benefits of the project have still not been made clear to residents and that the town will be "burdened with traffic, health hazards, noise, lights, etc."

    The group further stated, "The residents of Gales Ferry intend to meet with Cashman, and hear any mitigation strategies.....At this time, there did not seem to be any reasonable answers to the impending roadblocks....There is much concern for Gales Ferry, Montville, and Groton and the future of this area becoming largely industrialized."

    Perrault said Cashman will be filing a transfer permit application within the next two weeks with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which will begin a minimum six-month review process. Future meetings with town officials will be pursued as well, along with more public informational meetings.

    "This is the beginning of the process," he said. "Contrary to what some people may think, we're being as transparent as we can (about the project). We've answered every question, even though it may not be the answer people want."

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