Public needs to get involved in plans for State Pier

Recently there has been considerable publicity in The New London Day concerning problems with board members of the Connecticut Port Authority (CPA) and their attempts to operate with a lack of transparency in regards to negotiations involving the future use of the Connecticut State Pier and adjacent property in New London for a specific business venture involving wind turbines. The money involved with this redevelopment project has been cited as $93 million. 

So far, this new publicity appears to be a major factor in the resignation of the CPA board chairperson, the recent "stepping down" of the previous chairperson, the placement of a director on paid leave and an audit which includes an investigation of a whistle-blower complaint of CPA board fund mismanagement. The governor has now become directly involved. 

Up until now, State Pier and nearby facilities have been used for a variety of bulk shipping by various businesses involving large freighters and container ships. The pier was designed for such business and the danger of losing such a facility will affect existing and future commerce in this New London port. The CPA had apparently attempted to restrict public comment or input because the board may have desired to make a private deal to turn over the pier and nearby area as a large wind turbine assembly and staging facility — with no other businesses to have access to State Pier for at least 10 years. 

This restriction would have a disastrous effect on other businesses and is viewed by some as an inappropriate use of Connecticut state property to benefit a utility industry. One outspoken critic of this process is businessman/farmer Kevin Blacker of Noank, who has been strongly in favor of expanding and revitalizing industry in this area, taking advantage of our existing rail lines and waterways to encourage new product business ventures. His consistent criticism of the lack of Port Authority transparency and the blatant unfairness of granting exclusive use by the offshore wind industry has resulted in a strong public focus on the issue. 

At times like this, public comment is critical. While the use of wind power should be encouraged where appropriate in order to reduce our dependency on fossil fuel, such use should be handled in a fair manner so as not to disrupt local economies. I do encourage readers in New London County to write your state representatives on this very important topic.

Ed Johnson is a frequent contributor to the Times weekly newspapers.

 

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