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    Friday, July 19, 2024

    Ramshackle Fort Trumbull dock set to become new commercial fishing pier

    Front, Ryder Calzaretta, general manager with Reagan Marine Construction, and Todd Turcotte, vice president of Marine Group Pare Corp., look over the side of a dilapidated commercial fishing pier Tuesday, June 11, 2024, that New London is looking to reconstruct in the Fort Trumbull area. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    From left, Russ Heinke, an estimator with Mohawk Northeast, Megan Raymond, principal scientist with SLR Consulting, and David Schill, vice president of Mohawk Northeast, walk along the L-shaped dock at Fort Trumbull that the City of New London is looking to reconstruct, Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    From left, Russ Heinke, an estimator with Mohawk Northeast, Megan Raymond, principal scientist with SLR Consulting, and David Schill, vice president of Mohawk Northeast, walk along the L-shaped dock at Fort Trumbill that the City of New London is looking to reconstruct, Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    An L-shaped commercial fishing pier the City of New London is looking to reconstruct in the Fort Trumbull area Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London ― The city plans to rebuild a splintered Fort Trumbull dock into a fully functioning commercial fishing pier using a $3 million grant donated by an offshore wind company.

    The money, originally promised by Deepwater Wind, which was purchased in 2018 by the Danish wind company Ørsted, will be used to rehabilitate the “timber elbow pier” on the peninsula from its current state of disrepair into a modern structure capable of offloading the catches of fishing boats.

    The proposal is the result of a $42,000 study carried out in 2020 by the Rocky Hill-based AECOM engineering firm, which was tasked with assessing three city piers: the elbow, the Amistad and Stone.

    Results were later presented to city, Connecticut Port Authority and Renaissance City Development Association officials who opted to use the grant money for the elbow pier, said RCDA Executive Director Peter Davis on Tuesday during a tour of the site with several potential project bidders.

    “The elbow pier was the one we could fully improve with the amount of grant money we have to work with,” said Davis, whose organization is managing the project. “It’s in such rough shape ― the pier’s been here at least 50 years ― that the only safe use for it right now is for the tying up of boats.”

    The work calls for the replacing of four pier piles, 48 failed cross braces, 23 rubber strip fenders, steel cleats, ladders and light poles. Davis said the majority of the work will address issues above the water.

    The elbow pier is located just a few feet from the busy Stone pier. The city leases both piers to New London Seafood Distributors Inc., a private commercial fishing operation, for $2,700 a month, with $300 covering use of the elbow pier.

    Once the upgrade work ― expected to begin in the fall and be finished within six months ― is done, Davis said a decision would have to be made on whether to allow New London Seafood to keep using the structure or let someone else use it.

    New London Seafood founder Gary Yerman, whose company has been using the pier to unload striper, bluefish and scallops since 1989, said he only learned about the reconstruction and re-use project when he wandered over to the site tour on Tuesday, curious why a knot of people were taking turns gingerly walking the pier planks.

    “No one talked to the fishermen about this,” he said, showing off towers of unassembled waxed boxes set to be filled with ice and freshly caught seafood before being shipped distributors in Toronto, the Bronx, Philadelphia and other markets. “I wonder why no one talked to us.”

    Mayor Michael Passero said Yerman was heavily involved in early grant discussions aimed at enhancing the city’s commercial fishing fleet infrastructure and noted there are no firm plans yet for the elbow pier’s future use.

    “Its future is still up in the air, but it’s not going to be an operation like (Yerman’s), but rather self-sufficient smaller operations,” Passero said. “If we can get the funding, I’d love to get an icehouse down there and improve the pier’s utilities, really build it up.”

    Yerman said the elbow pier, even without the capability of accepting seafood cargo, still serves an important role.

    “Boats need room to tie up,” he said, pointing out a trio of trawlers berthed at the pier on Tuesday morning.

    j.penney@theday.com

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