Town objects to Fast Ferry continuance

For proposed Quonset to Block Island service
Fri, 09/21/2018 - 9:30am

The Town of New Shoreham is objecting to Rhode Island Fast Ferry being allowed more time to secure dockage for a Quonset Point to Block Island seasonal high-speed service in Old Harbor.

The town filed an objection with the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers objecting to RIFF’s request for another one-year continuance to satisfy conditions of its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity license. RIFF filed a motion with the Division on Aug. 7 requesting a continuance to Sept. 22, 2019. The Division granted RIFF its license for the service on Sept. 22, 2016, with the condition that the company finds dockage at Old Harbor for the service. 

Since 2013, the town, along with Interstate Navigation, has opposed the service.

The town claims there are safety concerns, and insufficient landing space, and public infrastructure to support adding the service at Old Harbor.  

RIFF claims it has been unable to secure dockage at Old Harbor due to an appeal by the town that is pending in Superior Court. The town is objecting to the granting of more time for RIFF to secure dockage, while appealing the Division’s conditional granting of RIFF’s license. RIFF is owned by Charlie Donadio, Jr., while Paul Filippi, owner of Bluewater, LLC, is responsible for securing a dockage facility for the service at Old Harbor’s inner basin.

In its Aug. 28 objection to the Division, the town states that, “The Division lacks jurisdiction to grant RIFF’s motion,” and “The Superior Court has exclusive jurisdiction over this case.

This legal principle was recognized by the Division in its order of September 18, 2017 wherein RIFF’s initial extension request was granted following a remand by the Superior Court.” The town asserts that “RIFF has failed to establish just cause for the requested extension,” and has “no legal impediment” for securing a “proposed dockage facility” at Old Harbor.

The town noted that RIFF’s “alleged justification” for the continuance is disingenuous for four reasons: (1) There is no stay of the Division’s conditional order; (2) The Army of Corps of Engineers has not required the Superior Court appeal be concluded as a condition of RIFF or Bluewater filing an application with the ACOE; (3) The Coastal Resources Management Council has not required the Superior Court appeal be concluded as a condition of RIFF or Bluewater filing an application with CRMC; (4) During an April 4, 2018 hearing, “Mr. Filippi of Bluewater never stated that the pendency of the Superior Court appeal was in any way an impediment to Bluewater making the appropriate filings with the ACOE and the CRMC. Indeed, Mr. Filippi testified on April 4, 2018 that the ACOE and CRMC filings would be made within the next ten days to two weeks.”

The town’s objection contends that “Bluewater cannot comply with the CRMC notice of deficient application dated March 29, 2018,” which requires the town’s consent, the “consent of the ACOE, and proof of ownership as to both proposed docking facilities.” Bluewater is proposing a fixed pier near the east breakwater, where the old Mount Hope Dock was situated, and a floating pier that would abut the red stone breakwater. The town notes that the CRMC’s notice of deficient application states that the ACOE controls the upland area near the east breakwater and the CRMC granted the town a 50-year lease for the red stone breakwater on April 1, 2012. 

In response, Paul Filippi said, “I wish our cash-strapped town would stand up for the ratepayers and taxpayers at the PUC instead of squandering resources protecting the ferry monopoly from competition that has been determined by the PUC to be beneficial to the ratepayers and taxpayers. The entire Old Harbor including the upland areas where pedestrian access points are proposed is under the jurisdiction of the Federal government including the docks the town leases from the Army Corp.”

RIFF owner Charlie Donadio, Jr. said, “The arguments being put forth by the town and Interstate Navigation are identical to those that were unsuccessfully and fruitlessly put forth a year ago when the Division granted a similar extension over their objections.”

“As for the town’s position on dockage,” Donadio said, “these are, yet again, the same arguments that have been unsuccessfully presented to the Division several times; most recently on the Superior Court remand. Rhode Island Fast Ferry is confident that the Division will address these arguments in the same manner as it has in the past and grant the extension. In doing so is in the best interest of the public, as well as the residents and businesses on Block Island.”