Final State Pier cost remains unknown
The final cost of the State Pier construction project is likely to go up again but by how much and how it will be funded remain a lingering question.
Connecticut Port Authority Executive Director Ulysses Hammond, at a board meeting on Tuesday, signaled that the answers should come within “the next few weeks,” as negotiations with the key involved players near an end.
“We have been engaged in a series of complex negotiations with multiple parties regarding the development of a fair final path forward to the project completion this fall,” Hammond said.
He said he expects to call a special meeting of the port authority’s board later this month regarding the price tag of the project, which now stands at $255.5 million. Negotiations on the final cost of construction at State Pier, which have steadily risen from a $93 million estimate in 2019, involve construction project manager Kiewit and offshore wind partners Orsted and Eversource, among others.
The state has already committed at least $180 million towards the project that has been redesigned and faced permitting delays, supply chain issues and construction obstacles. The Port Authority, a quasi-public agency, has also faced increased scrutiny by the state and been the subject of investigations related to ethics, financial management and contracts.
Negotiations on costs are nearing the final stages even as Gateway prepares to begin its run as terminal operator at State Pier, which will be used initially as a staging, assembly and delivery site for Orsted and Eversource’s offshore wind projects.
About 60% of State Pier will switch from construction site to terminal in time for the expected arrival next month of vessels associated with Orsted and Eversource’s South Fork Wind offshore wind project under construction off Long Island.
Last month, Gateway parent company Enstructure said it was finalizing contractual agreements with the International Longshoremen’s Association, whose members will load and unload vessels at the pier. Gateway said it estimates in total there will be 60 to 80 employees from various companies at State Pier working on South Fork Wind.
Gateway is expected to arrive at State Pier by the end of the month.
Hammond said the obstacles that have slowed construction and pile driving at State Pier are expected to continue into the summer with dredging resuming at the end of the year.
Orsted and Eversource jointly issued a statement in response to questions about South Fork Wind, saying in part that “State Pier is expected to begin to see activity associated with South Fork Wind next month, beginning with the arrival of the first vessel carrying prep packages to support wind turbine staging and assembly at the site. In June, we expect the blades and nacelles to arrive at State Pier, which will lead to further activity supporting the project.”
Meanwhile, Hammond said there have been behind-the-scenes activities in advance of the arrival of offshore wind vessels in May. Licensed marine pilots and tugboat operators from Thames Towboat Company were trained earlier this month at the U.S. Maritime Resource Center in Newport, R.I. Those pilots will guide the incoming vessels to the pier.
The changeover to Gateway as terminal operator triggers lease payments to the port authority of $2 million per year from Orsted and Eversource and additional funds from Gateway that are based on revenues and expected to amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
The city of New London is receiving a minimum of $750,000 per year for at least seven years from a host community agreement with Orsted and Eversource. The city received an initial $500,000 payment in June and expects a second payment next month.
Hammond said he remains encouraged by the progress at State Pier.
“While we still have about 40% to complete before the champagne celebration, the current momentum and commitment is promising,” Hammond said.