Town refutes Bluewater's ability to provide dock

For proposed fast ferry service
Sun, 11/15/2015 - 7:15pm
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The Town of New Shoreham is refuting the idea that Bluewater LLC has a “realistic expectation” of developing a docking facility for Rhode Island Fast Ferry in Old Harbor.

In a filing submitted to the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers on Thursday, Nov. 5, the town, through its attorney Kathy Merolla, rebutted an Oct. 9 conclusion issued by the Division that Bluewater LLC, did in fact have a realistic expectation of developing docking space for a new fast ferry route from Quonset to Block Island. Bluewater LLC is owned by Paul Filippi and Rhode Island Fast Ferry (RIFF) is owned by Charles Donadio.

Both Filippi and Donadio provided brief statements to The Block Island Times, while also saying that the town’s concerns would be addressed more completely when they file their response to the Public Utilities Commission by Nov. 16.

“It is the position of the Town that Bluewater does not have a realistic expectation of being able to develop either purported docking facility because the consent of the Town is required for the permitting process and construction process to go forward at both of these proposed docking facilities," the town asserted in its filing.

The proposed docking facilities, as described by the town, are located “at the Northerly Ell of the inner harbor along the Red Breakwater” and the docking facility is located “along the East Breakwater of the Old Harbor which connects the Town’s bait dock" in Old Harbor.

As to the first location, the town stated that “Pursuant to state law, the construction of any such docking facility requires the assent of the State of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC)." The Northerly Ell/Red Breakwater, the town stated, "was deauthorized by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and is now owned by the State of Rhode Island.”

In a supplemental statement included in the memorandum, CRMC Executive Director Grover Fugate agreed that any dock built at the Northerly Ell section of Old Harbor would “require an Assent from the CRMC. The Town, as holder of the Lease, would have to consent to any such dock and would have to be a party to any request for such an Assent.”

The Town furthered its argument by stating, “The Town, pursuant to the CRMC Lease, has been given the right to construct and operate a dock on or nearby the Northerly Ell/Red Breakwater for the next fifty years, and no other person or entity can construct any such dock without the express written consent of the Town...” The town, through a vote by the Town Council, has officially taken the stance that it does not want or need this new fast ferry service.

As to using the existing floating dock at the Northerly Ell/Red Breakwater to move passengers from the ferry to the land and the proposed alternate access extension of the dock to the land, the Town stated that “It is important to note that even if the CRMC were not involved in the docking facility approval process, which it clearly is, there cannot be a reasonable expectation that a docking facility for a private passenger ferry service will be constructed if there is no way to get the private passenger ferry customers from the dock to the land and from the land to the dock.”

Further, the town stated that “the site of the Northerly Ell/Red Breakwater passenger access from the dock to the land through the ‘Existing Floating Dock'... is owned by Ballard’s Wharf Realty LLC." Ballard's Wharf Realty is owned by Blake Filippi, who is the brother of Bluewater LLC owner Paul Filippi. The town stated that a proposed “Alternate Access” extension of the dock to Lot 159 on Plat 6 is also owned by Ballard’s Wharf Realty and added that Blake Filippi is opposed to the new fast ferry service.

“Blake Filippi, a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives who serves as the state representative for the people of New Shoreham, has expressed his opposition to the RIFF ferry service and has repeatedly stated he will not support it. It is no surprise then that Bluewater has been unable to demonstrate any right to use the Existing Floating Dock to move passengers to the land or to extend construction of the dock to Lot 159 to create the ‘Alternate Access.’”

In a letter dated Sept. 18, 2015 that was included in the town's filing, Blake Filippi stated that “I am the manager of Ballard’s Wharf Realty LLC (BWR), which owns Plat 6, Lot 159 in the Town of New Shoreham. Please be advised that BWR has not agreed to allow Bluewater, LLC to utilize BWR’s riparian/littoral rights, nor has BWR agreed to allow Bluewater LLC’s proposed pier to connect to BWR’s existing marine facility.”

Due to this, the town contended in its memorandum that “without a method of moving private passenger ferry customers to and from the land, the construction of such a docking facility is nonsensical.”

In its conclusion, the town stated that "Refusal by either the CRMC or the [Army Corps of Engineers] to allow the permitting application process to move forward without the consent of the Town clearly leads to the conclusion that there is no reasonable expectation of Bluewater or RIFF being able to develop a docking facility in Old Harbor."

Paul Filippi responded:

“Bluewater will respond to information the Town of New Shoreham presented to the Public Utilities Commission early next week,” Paul Filippi said in a statement emailed to The Times. “The town’s concerns about people coming and going over the existing public dock to access the rebuilt Mt. Hope Dock and the public right of way along the west red jetty in the inner basin will be addressed. The PUC hearing officer expressed concern that both Bluewater piers may take too long to build because of ‘the expected vehement opposition from Interstate Navigation and the Town.’ We will present evidence and case law that will directly address this concern, in so far as the opposition’s ability to prevent development of competing docks in Old Harbor.”

RIFF owner Charlie Donadio said he would wait until he and Bluewater submitted their rebuttal to the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers to make a full statement. But he did say, "In this latest 80 page response, there is obviously a lot of information we disagree with, but we will respond on Nov. 16." That is the deadline by which his company and Bluewater must file their response to the town's filing.