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    Friday, January 27, 2023

    Port Authority says State Pier work to be substantially completed by February

    New London ― Despite obstacles that have complicated construction and driven up costs, work to transform State Pier in New London into an offshore wind hub is about 75% complete and on schedule to achieve “substantial completion” by February, Connecticut Port Authority Executive Director Ulysses Hammond announced on Tuesday.

    “We are either ahead or tracking on target in five of the six key construction areas,” Hammond said.

    Hammond, addressing the authority’s board of directors at its regular meeting, said there remain challenges as workers make a final push towards project completion in anticipation of the pier accommodating offshore wind vessels in the spring that are associated with the construction of South Fork Wind.

    South Fork Wind is a 12-turbine offshore wind farm now under construction off Long Island by Orsted and Eversource, the partners developing and leasing State Pier to use for several of its offshore wind projects. South Fork will supply power to East Hampton, N.Y.

    Tuesday’s meeting did not include any updated costs associated with the added work at the pier though Hammond said a final “guaranteed maximum price” could come as early as the board’s next meeting in January. The authority, which is managing the State Pier project, is involved in a series of “complex negotiations regarding a fair and what I will call a final path forward with the entire project team,” Hammond said.

    The cost of the project, which has risen dramatically since it was first proposed, now stands at $255.5 million. Costs are split between the state, which has contributed $178 million, and offshore wind partners Orsted and Eversource, who are jointly providing $77.5 million towards the project.

    In October, the authority shifted $7.5 million in available funds to cover the unanticipated costs due to extra work and supply chain issues. To cover some of the shortfall, the authority is using about $2.5 million in contingency funds and $3.7 million is being removed from an escrow account that contains money it had put aside to lease the New England Central Railroad property next to the pier.

    The added costs were in part associated with excavation work as crews work to drive piles and install retaining walls around the expanded pier.

    Marlin Peterson, construction manager for AECOM, the consulting firm overseeing the State Pier project, said crews had trouble driving piles due to rock and encountered underwater timber and concrete foundations which required additional demolition and excavation to get piles driven to the proper depth for the heavy lift platforms on the pier.

    In some locations, Peterson said additional work is being done to provide stability. Some of the work will continue into the spring. It is unclear if the new work will drive up the final price of the project.

    Peterson said the load requirements of sections of the pier are five times that of the typical container terminal.

    There have been other hurdles in the project.

    Last month, Peterson said the dredging contractor suffered an equipment failure to one of its barges that resulted in the release of dredge material into the main channel of the Thames River. Cashman Dredging & Marine Contracting began dredging for the project in October.

    Peterson said the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection were all informed and the material was subsequently removed. The dredging equipment has since been inspected and certified and dredging continues, he said.

    Peterson said excavation work continues on the adjacent railroad parcel being leased by the authority. A contractor working there had to relocate an on-site water treatment plant, which handles existing contaminated groundwater. That work will continue over the next several weeks as below ground utilities are installed.

    There was no mention, during the meeting, of a report by the Connecticut Mirror of criticism about a potential for a conflict of interest with construction manager Kiewit Construction hiring itself for some of the subcontracts in the project.

    “As we make the final push to project completion, while we cannot control what Mother Nature might have in store for us this winter, we have a few challenges as outlined,” Hammond said.

    g.smith@theday.com

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