State Pier: A hub for the future

May 5, 2019

More than anything that has come along in a century, the prospect of State Pier as a hub for wind power development in Northeast waters holds the promise to make this a different landscape in a familiar place. It can help New London, the region and even the state come of age — the age of renewable energy, of innovation in the face of climate change, of 21st-century problem-solving.

The Day, which has been recording the fortunes of New London and environs through the coming of the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, submarine building, tribal casinos and a nuclear power station, is taking the long view: Whatever the inevitable hiccups, the public-private partnership to upgrade State Pier for offshore wind development can recast the state as a principal in the maritime industry of the Northeast.

And what else has everyone been talking about? Connecticut urgently needs growth and innovation.

On Thursday, Gov. Ned Lamont announced a 57.5 million — than the state, at 1.5 million in the first two years. The city is negotiating an agreement that could deliver between 750,000 per year for the subsequent eight years. The city also will get at least 75,000 toward municipal services.

The announcement came without a detailed plan for the upgrades but with incentives in place for the port authority to finish the project in three years. The authority expects it will have to limit or eliminate traditional cargo ship stops at the pier. If it will expedite the reconstruction, that seems reasonable.

There is a lot to get excited about, beginning with the recognition of this deepwater port as the future of Connecticut’s maritime industry. We like upgrading the status of State Pier, which, as The Day has reported, generally has languished under the lukewarm interest of the state Department of Transportation and often taken a back seat to the Navy’s interests.

We like what is currently knowable about the young wind power industry as a clean energy source and a future stabilizer of Connecticut’s and New England’s energy supply; we know there may well be unforeseen risks or weak spots to deal with. We like the willingness of the partners to innovate mot just for the sake of corporate profit, but also for the good of the environment and the economy. We like that the governor likes New London and sees its unique potential. We do, too.

To be sure, the lack of public information during negotiations has been nerve-wracking and somewhat patronizing on the part of the port authority. Nondisclosure of business negotiations is not illegal under the state’s fairly robust FOI law, but we urge greater transparency as the project progresses. The governor ought to see to that.

It took a lot of varying political and commercial interests to reach this shared vision, and it will take creative push-and-pull among them to keep it moving. The private partners may have to learn some lessons in transparency and the public partners may need to pick up the pace over the usual tempo of state projects. The port authority, in effect the clerk of the works for this project, must expect heavy lifting to develop a top-drawer plan and meet its deadlines for completion.

The Day looks forward to what the rebirth of State Pier can do for Connecticut.