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New London State Pier gets federal approval to start construction

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Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public Radio
The State Pier expansion would support the construction of offshore wind farms in New England.

The Connecticut Port Authority received a key permit last week, and this week, the board voted to officially make the State Pier expansion project a go. The federal authorization came from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers more than two years after the permit process began.

While the process was lengthy due to some back-and-forth, what matters is the doors the permit opens for the project, said John Henshaw, executive director of the Connecticut Port Authority.

“[It] will allow us to move forward with the in-water work at the pier,” said Henshaw. “That work entails a variety of different activities, including dredging the [berths] at the pier and building a heavy-lift pad on the State Pier, and finally creating a central wharf area by filling between the two existing piers.”

He said first up at the pier is dredging, or cleaning out, a section of the Thames River for future construction. That’s set to begin in January. The rest of construction is scheduled for after May because the permit requires in-water construction to pause between February and May to protect fish habitats.

As for a construction schedule, substantial completion is estimated for January 2023, in time for projects led by offshore wind companies to benefit.

“But we still have to sit with our partners, including Ørsted, Eversource, Gateway and Kiewit, to work on a delivery strategy that generates the most efficient completion schedule at the least cost,” Henshaw said.

The project is estimated to cost $235.5 million. The price tag has been criticized by some as it’s more than double the original cost of $93 million.

But Henshaw said the increase is due, in part, to design improvement.

“As that design evolved it became more expensive; part of that was to change the preliminary design to better accommodate the needs of the Cross Sound Ferry,” he added.

Once completed, the pier will host the first Jones Act qualified wind turbine installation vessel and several offshore wind projects – just to name a few. Henshaw said the future is exciting for this new industry in Connecticut, set to generate income for both the state and the city of New London.

“The offshore wind industry is just getting on its feet,” Henshaw said. “We’re going to be a market leader in the industry because of this facility.”

Camila Vallejo is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. She is a bilingual reporter based out of Fairfield County and welcomes all story ideas at cvallejo@ctpublic.org.