No new fast ferry service this summer

Sat, 04/14/2018 - 9:00am
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Rhode Island Fast Ferry has had a setback in its efforts to secure dockage for its proposed high-speed ferry service from Quonset Point to Block Island, which means that an additional fast ferry service will not be making runs during the upcoming summer season. The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council issued a Notice of Deficient Application to Paul Filippi on March 28 for his dockage application, citing several reasons for the deficiency, including riparian rights, proof of ownership, and town and federal government consent. Both Rhode Island Fast Ferry owner Charlie Donadio, Jr. and Filippi say they will continue to seek the proper permits to bring the service to the island.

Filippi told The Times that the CRMC’s determination is a setback, but he is confident he can rectify the application. “We’re going to resubmit the application to the CRMC to inform the regulators that Bluewater is relying on the 408 application submitted with the Army Corps of Engineers,” which he said notes that Bluewater is relying on federal government jurisdiction to secure dockage at Old Harbor.   

“We’re very confident,” said Filippi, who noted the importance of educating the regulators about Bluewater’s dockage proposals. “There has been no change in the application. We still think the project is viable.” 

For the past two years, Filippi has been seeking permits for two proposed dockage locations at Old Harbor’s inner basin: a fixed and floating L-shaped dock adjacent to the red breakwater, and a fixed pier to a paver pathway upland of the east breakwater in front of Ballard’s Inn. 

Donadio told The Block Island Times that although the service will not be operating this summer, the company will continue to seek dockage at Old Harbor. The Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers granted RIFF a license to operate the high-speed ferry service on Sept. 22, 2016, and the ferry company has been trying to secure dockage at Old Harbor for the service through Filippi’s Bluewater, LLC. RIFF’s Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity license was granted with the condition that the ferry company secure dockage within a year’s time. In November, the Division granted RIFF a one-year extension until Sept. 22, 2018.

The Notice of Deficient Application was written by Dave Reis, a Supervising Environmental Scientist on staff at the CRMC. His determination asserts that the application, submitted and signed by “Filippi for Ballard’s Wharf Realty, LLC and Bluewater, LLC does not provide the necessary proof of ownership for the upland work, nor the consent from the Federal Government and the Town of New Shoreham for tidal waters affected by the proposal.”

In the notice, Reis states: “Revised ownership information provided to the CRMC is not for the Ballard’s Inn property (Ballard’s Inn Realty), which is located adjacent to the east breakwater, but involves other property not adjacent to this work owned by Ballard’s Wharf Realty, Inc. If the Army Corps of Engineers does not claim ownership of the east breakwater, ownership would default to the State of Rhode Island as filled tidal lands.”

“The east breakwater area is subject to a right-of-entry agreement between the federal government and the Town of New Shoreham. Until demonstrated otherwise, the CRMC believes any work affecting the east breakwater, and access thereto, at a minimum, requires the consent of the federal government and the Town of New Shoreham.” 

As for the red breakwater, Reis notes that: “The CRMC granted the Town of New Shoreham with a 50-year lease for the breakwater structure on April 1, 2012. Considering the lease granted to the town, the applicant does not have riparian (littoral) rights to the tidal water area north of the town leased breakwater and therefore would require the consent of the town for structures or activities in this area.”

New Shoreham Town Solicitor Katherine Merolla told The Times that, “The CRMC Notice of Deficient Application supports the position that the town has consistently taken that Bluewater does not have the consents and proof of ownership, which are required to construct either of its proposed docking facilities.”