Town denied access to dockage plans

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 9:15am

The Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers has denied the Town of New Shoreham’s request to be furnished with a copy of the dockage application submitted for Rhode Island Fast Ferry’s proposed seasonal high-speed ferry service from Quonset Point to Block Island. 

On Monday, the Division issued an Order that denied reconsideration of the town and Interstate Navigation’s joint motion filed on Nov. 29 requesting that information. The application was filed by Bluewater LLC with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Bluewater, owned by Paul Filippi, is responsible for securing permitting for dockage for the ferry service at Old Harbor’s inner basin. 

In its Jan. 8 Order, the Division noted that it has no jurisdiction over determining feasibility of the proposed high-speed ferry service based on design plans, and that its Dec. 13 decision was being reaffirmed. The Division referenced RIFF’s objection to the town’s request in its Order, stating that “the Town’s discovery exceeds the scope of the matter...” 

For the past few years, the town and Interstate have argued in Superior Court and at the Division’s Warwick office in opposition to RIFF owner Charlie Donadio, Jr.’s proposed high-speed service. On Jan. 2, the parties filed a joint motion requesting that the Division vacate its Sept. 18, 2017 granting of a one-year continuance to RIFF to secure suitable dockage for the service. The Division has not yet ruled on that motion.

The town and Interstate have been seeking to overturn the Division’s Sept. 22, 2016 issuance of a Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience license to RIFF to operate the service. The Division has asserted during testimony that the proposed high-speed ferry service would provide a public service.

The town and Interstate contend that there is no suitable dockage, or viable plans to accommodate the service at Old Harbor, which was a condition for granting RIFF with its CPCN license. The Division’s Sept. 18 order stipulates that RIFF could request an additional one-year continuance from the Division to secure dockage for the service.

Filippi told The Times that “another town filing against the PUC was denied. Block Islander’s money was once again wasted on exorbitant legal fees fighting the Public Utilities Commission, arguing that competition is not in the public good. The Quonset ferry will be competitive, convenient, dependable and will support our economy. It’s as simple as that.”

The Division will be holding an evidentiary hearing at its office in February when New Shoreham Town Solicitor Katherine Merolla will be permitted to question the status of Bluewater’s dockage plans.