Federal funds kick start marine facility project in New London
New London ― The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $7 million grant to help fund the construction of a $18.5 million industrial marine complex along the banks of the Thames River.
The money will benefit Mohawk Northeast, a heavy construction and engineering company with a marine services division based in Groton, which intends to build a marine terminal and metal fabrication facility just north of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in New London.
The city in partnership with Mohawk and with support from its Connecticut delegation in Congress, applied for the funding from the U.S. DOT U.S. Maritime Association Port Infrastructure Development Grant Program. Persistence paid off since it was the third time the city had applied for funding.
On Monday, elected officials and representatives of Mohawk gathered on Mohawk’s property off Lewis Street for a celebration of the news.
US. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Mohawk Northeast President Allan Heinke and Vice President David Schill, State Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London, Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut President Tony Sheridan and New London Mayor Michael Passero were among those on hand.
“This is really now just going to raise New London’s game in terms of being a very vibrant stakeholder and player in the maritime economy of the 21st century,” Courtney said.
Passero said he was thrilled to have Mohawk come to the city with an idea for an investment that is expected to provide at least 100 jobs and help support what is an economically depressed area of the city.
Schill explained that Mohawk had for years sought a place to expand its operations in Groton. It had been using the New London property and warehouses but found the water in the area too shallow to use for anything but shallow draft barges to transport material and equipment.
“With the rail access and the water access we felt developing this property would be something we’d want to move forward with,” Schill said.
The planned bulkhead will be 500 feet wide and extend out from the shore by 150 feet. Mohawk plans to dredge from the channel to a pier to accommodate larger vessels, such as barges off loading equipment and bulk materials. The upland site, which already houses a metal fabrication facility, will also be more fully developed.
Mohawk’s property is the site of the former Thames River Lumber Company, which used to have a pier but it burned down and was never rebuilt after World War II, Schill said.
“It has a history of being used for marine commerce. We’re just reestablishing that history,” Schill said.
Along with expansion of the shoreline, there will be a railroad spur to help move material to and from the site. The property - Mohawk owns three acres - straddles the rail line and connects directly to the adjacent State Pier, which is being reconstructed by the Connecticut Port Authority to help accommodate the offshore wind industry.
“As offshore wind grows, that’s when things are really going to start to blossom down here,” Schill said.
Paul Whitescarver, executive director of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region, said it was one of several ongoing projects on the Thames River, from Montville to New London, that will benefit the entire region.
The $7 million for the project is part of $701 million being awarded nationwide to 41 projects in 21 states and one territory. The funding was made possible in part by an infusion of funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and other appropriations by Congress, Courtney said.
In addition to New London, the Bridgeport Port Authority was awarded $10.5 million for design and construction of an Operations and Maintenance Wind Port in Bridgeport. Nearly $100 million of the federal funds was awarded to projects advancing offshore wind development.
Mohawk, which already has a fleet of barges, cranes and tugboats, services large clients that include the Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts departments of transportation, Electric Boat, U.S. Coast Guard, Amtrak and the U.S. Navy.
Mohawk has pledged $11.5 million towards the project and is awaiting final approval of permits for the work from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Schill said once the permits are in place he estimates the project will take about two years to complete.