EB presents $850 million expansion, improvement plans to the public
Groton — Electric Boat on Thursday night held a meeting to present its plans for an $850 million project to expand and improve its Groton shipyard, including a new construction bay where a new class of ballistic-missile submarines will be built.
More than 50 people turned out for the meeting at the City of Groton Municipal Building, where they got to ask questions of representatives from EB and Fuss & O'Neill, the environmental consulting company assisting with the project.
"We have an opportunity to help recapitalize our nation's submarine fleet at a time when our nation desperately needs that," Maura Dunn, EB's vice president of human resources, told attendees at the start of the meeting.
In a few years, EB will start construction on 12 new ballistic missile submarines, known as the Columbia-class program. It plans to construct a new assembly facility and floating dry dock to accommodate this work in its south yard. The intent is to bring many of the materials into the site by water to help reduce congestion on roadways and construction traffic, said Ted DeSantos with Fuss & O'Neill.
The ballistic missile submarines will involve more than twice the amount of work that goes into building an attack submarine. If stood on end, one of these new ballistic missile submarines would be as tall as the Washington Monument.
The new assembly facility for the ballistic missile submarines is expected to be comparable in size to the green construction bay on the waterfront where attack submarines are steadily being assembled. EB says it needs the new facilities so that it can build attack submarines and ballistic missile submarines at the same time. The company is about 15 percent into the detailed design process for project, and construction of the buildings is expected to occur from 2019 to 2023.
Some of the neighbors in the immediate vicinity of EB's south yard are unhappy with the plans, and had met with representatives from EB several times prior to Thursday's meeting to air their concerns. Frank Ricci, a resident of Eastern Point Road, who worked for EB for 34 years, retiring in 2003, said he's planning to ask the City of Groton for a tax abatement, given that the new assembly building will block his water views.
"We've heard loud and clear from those directly on Eastern Point (Road) that we stick to ourselves, so we're trying to turn the corner and bring a new day. We're reaching out a little bit more than we have," Dunn said. "I think some of that is the secret nature of our work, but we're going to try and do a better job."
Jeff Nichols, who lives on Chapman Street off Eastern Point Road, said he's concerned about his water view being gone and the impact that will have on his property value. He's also worried about the noise from the construction, pollution and traffic. Nichols said he respects the work that EB does in support of national security, "but this affects us."
"We're not anti-American because we don't want a big 140-foot building put in our backyard," he said.
Sherry Casagranda, who's lived on Chapman Street for 20 years, echoed his concerns.
"Property values are really going to tank," she said.
EB said it looked at alternatives for where to site the new assembly building but none of them worked for a variety of reasons. It submitted permits to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers in late May. Both agencies are reviewing those permits. The company will need to dredge the area around where the new construction will occur. The Army Corps of Engineers will determine the site where the dredging material will be disposed.
EB has 16,800 employees companywide, 11,600 of whom live in Connecticut. As of August, the company had hired 2,594 people, 840 of whom were Connecticut residents at the time they were hired.