BOSTON (State House News Service) - More than two years after the Patrick administration committed to a $35 million New Bedford marine terminal project to serve as a staging area for Cape Wind, state officials are now talking up a complex, $100 million project while the developers of the offshore wind farm have held talks with Rhode Island about using that state as a project assembly area.
In October 2010, Gov. Deval Patrick traveled to New Bedford to announce a multi-purpose terminal would be built there to support offshore wind efforts, with administration officials estimating construction costs at $35 million and saying the overhauled pier would capture 600 to 1,000 Cape Wind jobs.
Two weeks ago, in announcing federal environmental approvals had been granted for the project, the Patrick administration placed the project's cost at $100 million and project proponents touted its potential to serve the offshore wind industry with less of a focus on jobs specific to the Cape Wind project, which has been in the planning phases for more than a decade in the midst of constant opposition from its critics.
In an interview Tuesday, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan acknowledged Massachusetts and Rhode Island are competing for the Cape Wind jobs and said Massachusetts was not looking to sweeten its infrastructure effort with loans or grants
"There absolutely is a competition," he said. "You have a lot of states that are looking at offshore wind."
Sullivan said the New Bedford marine terminal project's pure construction costs remain at around $35 million but costs associated with dredging, land acquisition, site assembly, and environmental remediation raise the overall cost to $100 million. "That's everything, soup to nuts," Sullivan said.
Cape Wind, through spokesman Mark Rodgers, declined to comment on talks between the offshore wind developer and Rhode Island officials or the project's staging area plans. Aides to Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee did not return a call seeking information about dealings with Cape Wind, which has won numerous approvals needed to build a wind farm in Nantucket Sound.
Rhode Island officials are positioning the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown, a 3,200-acre tract four miles south of Rte. 95, to become a hub for the renewable energy industry. The park's overseers say projects underway there account for $170 million in private investment, with plans for Deepwater Wind at Quonset to make the park its regional headquarters and staging and assembly facility. Park overseers say Alterra Energy Services has proposed building a renewable alternative fuel facility there as well.
Sen. Mark Montigny and Rep. Antonio Cabral, who each represent New Bedford, recently acknowledged Cape Wind's talks with Rhode Island over a staging area in Quonset, according to New England Cable News. The NECN report quoted a Cape Wind spokesman saying it was an "open question" whether the New Bedford terminal would be ready, in part due to slow permitting, in time for Cape Wind's needs.
Rep. Robert Koczera (D-New Bedford) told the News Service Wednesday that his city is in a good position to win the Cape Wind jobs, and, like Sullivan, he emphasized the terminal's long-term benefits, apart from Cape Wind, to serve the cargo, fishing, shipping and developing offshore wind industries.
While describing wind energy as the "impetus" for the Patrick administration's investment in the terminal, Koczera said it's possible that Cape Wind could use staging areas in both states. "With Cape Wind, they want to make sure that whatever site they use, that it will be a site that's ready," Koczera said.
Kozcera added, "The preference of Cape Wind would be New Bedford. They will look and have some discussion with Rhode Island but so long as the New Bedford site is available, that would be the preferred site."
With the EPA approvals in hand, Sullivan said he expects the New Bedford project to go out to bid in the next couple of weeks, with bidders given 45 to 60 days to respond. He estimated construction would require 19 months to complete, which means the terminal project would be finished in late 2014.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates offshore wind projects could create 43,000 jobs by 2020 and Sullivan said he believes Massachusetts can secure a majority of those jobs. "We think New Bedford and the region are well-positioned to take advantage of that job creation," he said.
According to the Patrick administration, the marine commerce terminal in New Bedford, in addition to having the capacity to serve as wind energy staging area, will be able to handle high-volume bulk and container shipping and specialty marine cargo. Following the EPA approval last month, Patrick said the project would make Massachusetts "the East Coast hub for offshore wind development while strengthening New Bedford's position as a port city."
The project involves the cleanup from the floor of New Bedford Harbor of 244,600 cubic yards of contaminated
sediment stemming from industrial activities in the 1930s and the 1940s. It also features construction of a coffer-dam style bulkhead to provide a berthing space for large vessels, construction of a confined offshore cell to dispose contaminated soils, and the dredging of harbor sediment to create a 30-foot deep channel to the facility,
"This is a large project," said Sullivan. "It's a complicated project."
In a statement released by the Patrick administration in connection with the EPA approval last month, Cape Wind President Jim Gordon said, "Cape Wind applauds the Commonwealth's development of the multi-purpose marine facility. The port will bring marine commerce and jobs to New Bedford for years to come, and will contribute to the development of a robust offshore wind industry."