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    Tuesday, February 07, 2023

    Controversial Gales Ferry dredging application put on hold

    Ledyard ― Developers of a proposed dredging material processing facility in Gales Ferry have put a hold on their application with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

    Owned and operated by Quincy, Massachusetts-based Cashman Dredging and Marine Contracting, Gales Ferry Intermodal announced in December it was pausing efforts to apply for a DEEP transfer station permit to process and transport dredge material at its 165-acre site at 1761 Route 12 in Gales Ferry.

    Though only five acres of the former Dow Chemical site would be used for the seasonal processing of dredge material, Cashman said in a statement that the effort was “detracting from Cashman’s primary focus in purchasing the site which is to redevelop the remaining 160 acres of the site for intermodal, industrial and maritime uses.”

    Cashman cited potential regulation changes for dredging and disposition of dredged materials as another reason to pause the six-month-long application process. The regulation changes are being implemented by a group that includes DEEP, the Connecticut Port Authority, the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    “It is prudent to await any potential regulation changes before GFI determines whether to pursue a dredge material transfer permit at the site,” the company said in a news release.

    Gales Ferry Intermodal is in the process of finalizing plans for the site. Ledyard Director of Land Use and Planning Juliet Hodge said Monday that the Planning and Zoning Commission is anticipating the company will present a revised master plan at its next meeting on Feb 9.

    The company plans to use the former Dow Chemical plant to process dredged, non-contaminated material brought in by barge and remove it from the site by truck or rail. It would store it on-site in 50-foot high covered piles, before it's shipped to various sites for uses such as capping landfills, remediating brownfield sites, or as base material for roadways.

    Neither Cashman nor DEEP responded to a request for comment this week.

    The company altered its initial plans for the site after more than 200 residents voiced their concerns about the project at a town meeting in July. They said the project would produce traffic, noise and pollution.

    At a meeting last November, Cashman Vice-President Alan Perrault outlined how the company’s revised proposal differed from its initial plan. The size of land dedicated to processing the materials was reduced from 10 acres to five and the processing capacity of the dredging plant was decreased from 9,500 cubic yards per day to 4,000.

    The maximum number of trucks that would enter and then leave the facility was also decreased from 250 to 100 per day, and the plant would operate weekdays from 7 a.m to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It had previously been scheduled to be open around the clock.

    Perrault also said at the meeting that the stockpiled material would be located closer to the existing rail lines. He said that the dredging season in New England's waterways is only between October and February, which is when the proposed facility would see the most activity.

    Residents want responsible neighbor

    Joanne Kelley has lived in town for more than 40 years and her home on Thames View Pentway is directly across the street from the site.

    As one of 20 members of the Citizens Alliance for Land Use group, she and its members have asked for transparency from Cashman.

    “We didn’t feel like we were getting an true engagement with the company,” she said about Cashman’s presentations at the two informational meetings last year.

    “We would love to simply engage,” she added.

    The grassroots organization, created to serve as a conduit between Cashman and the local community, understands that dredging is a “necessary evil,” but wonders if there is a better location. Kelley cited the surrounding neighborhoods, schools and churches that would be disrupted by the dust and noise created by the dredging project. Ledyard Middle School is roughly a mile down Route 12 from the site.

    Kelley and the group are also concerned that Gales Ferry will face a situation similar to the one across the river at the Gateway salt storage and distribution facility in Montville where residents have complained about noise and trucks.

    “We’re just trying to represent our community and protect the community,” Kelley said.

    Kelley said the group has never sat down and met with Cashman, but rather has contact through its hired community liaison, Michael Cherry, who she said was initially hired to help with zoning for the project. Cherry is a former member of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

    It was Cherry who informed the group of the pause in the application process.

    Kelley emphasized that the alliance is not “anti-business” but rather supports efforts to enhance the local economy with new businesses. She said the group understands the property is underused at this point and “would love to see nice industrial development.”

    Kelley pointed to the pollution of the river not just from the Dow plant but the former AES Thames site across the river, and how in their absence, the river has recovered. She does not want to repeat history.

    Rather, she said she’d like to see a development similar to what’s seen along the Mystic waterfront.

    “We want them to do something with that site that’s going to be responsible to the community,” Kelley said.

    k.arnold@theday.com

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