RIFF granted continuance

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 9:30am
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Rhode Island Fast Ferry has been given a one year continuance to secure dockage for a proposed high-speed ferry service from Quonset Point to Block Island. An order handed down by the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers notes that RIFF has “until Sept. 22, 2018, to satisfy the” dockage requirement at Old Harbor.

Rhode Island Fast Ferry has been given a one-year continuance to secure dockage for a proposed high-speed ferry service from Quonset Point to Block Island. An order handed down by the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers notes that RIFF has “until Sept. 22, 2018, to satisfy the” dockage requirement at Old Harbor.

RIFF has been embroiled in a protracted legal battle the past few years with Interstate Navigation, the Block Island Ferry company that operates traditional and fast ferry service from Pt. Judith, and the Town of New Shoreham, over the proposed ferry service. RIFF, owned by Vineyard Fast Ferry operator Charlie Donadio, Jr., obtained a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to operate the fast ferry service from the Division on Sept. 22, 2016 with the condition that it secure dockage at Old Harbor within one year. That has now been extended for another year.

The Division’s Sept. 18 order, written by hearing officer John Spirito, was rendered in response to RIFF’s motion for a stay, which was denied. The ferry comapny’s motion for a “stay of the compliance date” was filed in response to the Sept. 12, 2017 remand order by Superior Court Judge Richard Licht after Interstate Navigation and the Town of New Shoreham requested that the case be remanded back to the Division.

RIFF, citing “just cause” for the one-year continuance of the deadline, claims that “due to the delays associated with litigating the appeals filed by” the intervenors it has been unable to satisfy the dockage conditions. Interstate and the Town “argue that it is disingenuous of RIFF to blame the delays on the appeal” process, and contend that the delays belong to a “failure to identify docking facilities as previously ordered by the DPUC.”  

The Order states: “Interstate and the Town respectfully suggest that a continuance of one year would be appropriate given the posture and complexity of this case. If, after one year, RIFF is unable to satisfy the requirements set forth in the Order, RIFF could request an additional continuance from the DPUC.” The order also notes: “RIFF may seek additional continuances, for just cause, beyond the new Sept. 22, 2018 deadline.” 

When reached for comment, Interstate Navigation attorney Michael McElroy told The Times that in a DPUC order from Dec. 10, 2015, the Division “denied the Town’s motion for Summary Disposition, which was based on the lack of a docking facility in Old Harbor, in part because the Division was persuaded by RIFF’s representations that the ferry company was assuming that the Bluewater Pier” would be fully permitted by April 1, 2017, and be in service on May 31, 2017. 

“Yet here we are — about two years after those representations were confidently made by RIFF, and the so-called Bluewater Pier has no permits at all,” said McElroy. “In fact, RIFF conceded in a recent prehearing conference last week at the DPUC that docking approvals have not yet even been requested from either” the Coastal Resources Management Council or the Department of Environmental Management.

In response, Donadio said, “Given the delays brought on by the appeal filed in the Superior Court by both Interstate Navigation and the Town of New Shoreham, I am happy that the DPUC approved the request for an extension. Bluewater, owned by Paul Filippi, has been moving forward with the application process with the Army Corps of Engineers, and ultimately with CRMC and DEM. Bluewater is committed to developing two dockage locations that will benefit Old Harbor, as well as the new ferry service from Quonset Point.”

“I look forward to starting up this new fast ferry service from Quonset Point, which the state of Rhode Island has deemed a public need,” added Donadio. “I am hopeful that Block Island town officials will realize that this new ferry service will benefit the island’s visitors, local businesses and residents, despite the negative remarks that Interstate Navigation has made over the last four years to stifle competition.”

As to the dockage requirement, Filippi said, “Bluewater LLC’s proposal to rebuild the Mount Hope Dock and build a new dock in front of the red jetty is currently before the Army Corps of Engineers, in the 408 process, and a environmental assessment (EA) has been submitted and is being reviewed. As part of the next step in the process we have been asked to prepare a S.10/404 application. Once this application is complete, we will concurrently submit our application to the CRMC for an assent, and the DEM for a water quality permit. The new docks will meet all stipulations and conditions set forth by the regulators.”