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CT Construction Digest Monday August 16, 2021

2 CT power plants part of $1.9 billion deal with N.J.-based company

Luther Turmelle

Power plants in New Haven and Bridgeport are likely to be sold, as two subsidiaries of a Boston-based company have signed a $1.92 billion agreement to purchase New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group’s 6,750-megawatt fossil fuel generation portfolio.

Ralph Izzo, chairman, president and CEO of PSEG, said the sale agreement is the culmination of a strategic review of the company’s non-nuclear power plant portfolio that was announced a year ago.

The deal with ArcLight Energy Partners’ subsidiaries is expected to close by the end of this year or in the first quarter of 2022.

“With today’s agreement, which is the result of a robust sale process, PSEG is on track to realize a more predictable earnings profile,” Izzo said in a statement. “Further, this transaction continues our evolution toward a clean energy infrastructure-focused company that will enable our increasingly low-carbon economy.”

The deal covers 13 generation units in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland and New York. It requires the approval of federal regulators as well as those in the states where the power plants are located.

PSEG employs about 300 people among the 13 power plants, Marijke Shugrue, a company spokeswoman, said Friday. Shugrue said no power plant employees are being laid-off as a result of the sale.

“There are support employees, not assigned to the plants, who will be impacted,” she said. “Efforts are being made to find alternate employment within PSEG for those employees who wish to redeploy. Also, impacted employees will not be leaving PSEG now — the deal won’t close for several months, so those employees who are impacted remain employed and have time to seek other opportunities.”

The announcement of the deal came more than two months after PSEG announced it had shut down its coal-fired Bridgeport Harbor Station Unit 3. All of the generation units at Bridgeport Harbor Station produce a total of 884 megawatts of electricity.

PSEG purchased the Bridgeport power plant from Wisconsin-based WISVEST in 2002. The power plant, originally owned by The United Illuminating Co., began operating in 1957.

New Haven Harbor Station produces 578 megawatts of power and was purchased by PSEG from WISVEST in 2002. It began operating in 1975 when it, too, was owned by The United Illuminating Co.

The deal makes ArcLight a major player in the Connecticut power generation market.

It is the second deal transaction this year in which power plants in the state have been purchased by the company as art of a larger deal.

In early March, an ArcLight subsidiary, Generation Bridge, announced it was purchasing a group of power plants in three states, including three in Connecticut, from Princeton, N.J.-based NRG Energy.

NRG is selling three Connecticut power plants, in Middletown, Montville and the Devon section of Milford, to ArcLight. In addition, that deal between NRG and ArcLight, which has not closed yet, includes what is known as Connecticut Jet Power, which covers four remote jet turbines, in Cos Cob and Branford and two in Torrington.

New highway traffic cams online on as state finishes $24M project

Nick Sambides Jr

Twenty-nine new highway traffic surveillance cameras covering state highways in the Meriden area are coming online at a traffic website this week as part of the completion of a $24 million installation program.

The new cameras open blind spots in the state’s traffic camera network on Interstates 91 and 691 and Route 15 in Cheshire, Cromwell, Meriden, Middlefield, Middletown and Southington. As of Friday, only one or two were not online at CTTravelSmart.org but will be shortly, said Kevin J. Nursick, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

“Almost all of the new cams installed with the project are online now. We're looking into it now but they all, sans one, maybe two, are all streaming publicly,” Nursick said in an email on Friday.   

Three new message signs are also operational. They are located at Route 66 westbound in Middlefield, east of exit 13 of I-691; I-691 westbound in Meriden, west of exit 5; and I-691 eastbound in Cheshire, east of exit 3, Nursick said.

The new network additions allow motorists to monitor congestion, road conditions, construction and maintenance, lane closures and accidents around the clock, in real time. The cameras will also allow emergency responders to instantly verify the location and severity of accidents and other mishaps reported by 911 callers, Southington Fire Department Capt. Edwin Crandall said.

“Many times incidents are actually reported in the wrong location or direction [that the highways flow] so if we are able to deduce the correct location of an incident, sometimes it can reduce response time,” Crandall said.

Emergency communications center dispatchers monitor the cameras to help them understand what they are reporting to responders. In Southington’s case, firefighters also check camera feeds on computer tablets that they carry in fire engines and will be sure to use the new cameras, Crandall said.

The nearly 30 cameras cost about $150,000 each, Nursick said. On I-91, 15 closed-circuit television cameras were installed between Cromwell and the Meriden I-691 interchange, including a camera on Route 15 near the junction. Another 14 cameras are on I-691 between the I-91/Route 15 interchange and I-84 in Southington.

This phase of the project is estimated to cost $10,527,660.

The electronic overhead variable message signs cost about $13,340,470.

State denies request to suspend permit for State Pier work

Greg Smith 

The state has denied a request to suspend its decision to issue a state environmental permit needed by the Connecticut Port Authority to complete a massive construction project at State Pier in New London.

Steve Farrelly, owner of road salt business DRVN Enterprises, had filed an objection to an Aug. 3 permit approval by state Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katherine Dykes. Farrelly’s business was displaced from State Pier earlier this year because of the $235.5 million construction project spearheaded by the Connecticut Port Authority. Construction on some of the work outside the purview of the permit already has started.

Farrelly had filed a “motion to stay,” a request to place on hold the commissioner’s decision while he pursued his options, which could include an administrative appeal of the decision in Superior Court. He has 45 days from the decision to file that appeal. The Connecticut Port Authority did not have the permit in hand as of Friday.

Dykes rejected the request on Thursday.

In her response, she noted that “the right to seek a stay from the agency’s decision ... appears predicated on an appeal of the agency’s decision being brought in Superior Court.” She argues that her decision could not be suspended without an appeal first being filed.

If an appeal is filed, Dykes said the issue of whether or not DRVN Enterprises is an “aggrieved party,” as a result of state’s decision would be challenged by her agency and the Connecticut Port Authority.

With his business in jeopardy of collapsing, Farrelly has tried multiple legal maneuvers to halt the work at State Pier. He has argued DRVN deserved some type of protection as an existing water-dependent user of the pier. The state has countered that no water-dependent users should be favored over another. The state has joined with the private offshore wind industry — Danish wind company Ørsted and Eversource — on a project to modernize the pier for use as a staging and assembly area for offshore wind turbines. Permitted work is underway, though the port authority does not yet have in hand state and federal permits for planned in-water work, which includes dredging.

DRVN’s objections and subsequent hearings and legal motions likely have served to delay the state permit. The port authority has an Aug. 31 deadline to obtain the permits before it schedules talks with Ørsted and Eversource about the future of the project.

Connecticut Port Authority Executive Director John Henshaw has acknowledged that a stipulation in the Harbor Development Agreement allows Ørsted and Eversource to reconsider a portion of its $75 million pledge toward the project but said missing the deadline would only bring the two sides together for meetings about the timeline and scope of project, which is expected to be completed before the end of 2022.

Attorney Keith Anthony, who represents Farrelly, declined to comment on the commissioner's decision..

Historical New London pier to be documented as part of $235 million construction project

Greg Smith 

New London — The Connecticut Port Authority has agreed to a set of conditions requiring it to document and showcase a nearly 150-year-old, granite-lined pier being covered over as part of a $235.5 million construction project on New London’s waterfront.

The 1,100-foot long Central Vermont Railroad Pier, built in 1876, is being connected to the more modern adjacent pier as part of a plan to convert the two piers into one central wharf that initially will be used as a staging and assembly area for the offshore wind industry's turbines. The entire facility was designated in 1997 as the Adm. Harold E. Shear State Pier.

With a state permit approved, the port authority this week approved a memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office that they believe helps clear a path for the federal permit.

One stipulation in the agreement includes a $100,000 donation to the nonprofit Ledge Light Foundation for repairs to New London Ledge Light. The port authority, as per the agreement, additionally will document with photographs and text all aspects of the pier, including any significant findings, as work gets underway and portions of the substructure are exposed.

The CPA, “if necessitated by the project,” will also develop a historic materials treatment plan “for the removal, dismantling, storing, repair and reconstruction of the granite block bulkhead walls and associated historic materials.” That stipulation is contingent on whether or not work is needed on the western side of the pier, a portion of which collapsed in 2014. All work and documentation are to be reviewed by CSHPO.

CVRR Pier was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and believed to be the only remaining large 19th-century pier of its kind. The pier was constructed with earthen fill between granite retaining walls at a cost of $225,000 — $45,000 for a coal-handling facility and $175,000 for the pier.

“The coal facilities, finished in 1877, included a steam-powered hoist that could unload more than 100 tons of coal an hour from the Reading Railroad freighters in the slips in Central Vermont’s rail cars and coal bunkers,” according to the narrative in the application for the National Register of Historic Places.

By 1904, the pier was reconfigured to serve as a freight and express service to New York City, operated by the Central Vermont Transportation Company. Freight carried by rail to New London was shipped overnight to New York City. A rail line that once ran down the center of the pier was removed in the 1940s.

The state bought the CVRR Pier for $2.9 million in 2001 and recently transferred ownership over to the Connecticut Port Authority.

Historians still wonder about the source of the granite, one of the several questions about the pier that might be answered during the construction process.

“There are not many masonry piers from this time period on the East Coast,” said Catherine Labadia, a staff archaeologist with the CSHPO, the entity that helped craft the agreement with input from New London Landmarks.

Labadia said the loss of the structure will be mitigated by the plan for documentation, though the upcoming construction project may shed light on details about how the pier was constructed. She said engineers who worked on construction plans have done a good job in trying to retain as “as much of its historic fabric as possible,” which includes keeping some of the brownstone facade.

“When this project was initially proposed, CVRR Pier would have been unrecognizable,” she said.

In addition to taking photographs of the pier during construction, the port authority has agreed to develop a booklet with information about the pier that also will be posted on a website for the public.

The agreement fulfills a requirement of the National Preservation Act of 1966, which mandates federal authorities take into consideration how its actions will impact historic properties, Labadia said. The state's Environmental Policy Act has similar provisions.

The $100,000 to Ledge Light was added as a stipulation because of what she said was the need for something more tangible for the community. That money will be used for repairs to a boarding platform, masonry repointing, repair or replacement of glass in the lantern room and painting.

A spokesperson for the Ledge Light Foundation could not be reached for comment. Susan Tamulevich, executive director of the New London Maritime Society, which owns Ledge Light, said the funds will help preserve the historic and iconic treasure.