Friday, January 26, 2007

Dredging Trash Fouls RI South Coast

From today's Providence Journal:

Beachgoers find one man’s trash is not another man’s treasure

01:00 AM EST on Friday, January 26, 2007

By Katie Mulvaney Journal Staff Writer

John Torgan, Narragansett Baykeeper with Save the Bay and Peter Manning, a Matunuck surfer, observe trash just east of the Ocean Mist, such as the beer can, below, that has washed ashore during the beach replenishment project.
The Providence Journal / Frieda Squires

SOUTH KINGSTOWN — The beach replenishment project is surely bringing sand to Matunuck’s shores, but along with it is coming reams of rope, rubber gloves and pop-top beer cans galore.

Lobster bands littered the beach like confetti yesterday as concerned citizens and environmental officials inspected the coastline near Deep Hole, a prime fishing and surfing spot. It appears that the dredging project under way at the Harbor of Refuge is digging up three decades of trash that has fallen or been thrown off boats. Now that waste is landing on the beaches as a result of a plan to dump the dredged material just offshore to restore Matunuck’s storm-stripped beaches.

“This was supposed to be clean sand and gravel from Point Judith Pond. … We were under the understanding there was no garbage,” said John Torgan, Baykeeper with Save the Bay.
Save the Bay, which was contacted by the Rhode Island Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, is asking that work be suspended until it is determined to be safe to proceed.

“We may need to stop this dredging project until this is all sorted out,” Torgan said.

Laura Ricketson, spokeswoman for the state Coastal Resources Management Council, said the refuse was not hazardous.

“None of it’s contaminated. This is all stuff that has been either lost overboard or tossed overboard,” she said.

A tour of the beach in the vicinity of Deep Hole and the Ocean Mist found fishing nets, rubber gloves and boots, hoses, a leather belt and hundreds of pop-top beer cans, some apparently dating to when the harbor was last dredged 30 years ago.

Ricketson said there were no plans to stop the dredging. The CRMC is the state sponsor of the dredging operation, which is being overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“If we pull out now, the channel will not be navigable,” she said. “We have to weigh having non-hazardous material wash up on the beach and having the channel not be safe.”

Work began last month to remove 90,000 cubic yards of sand and sediment from about 20 acres encompassing the harbor channels and anchorage areas. A natural buildup of silt and sand in the port’s channel was making navigation hazardous, according to the Army Corps.

Under local pressure to help replenish the area’s eroding beaches, the Army Corps agreed to dispose the dredged material at two locations in the intertidal zone off Matunuck. On average, a dump scow has been releasing two loads a day.

By contract, Newborn Construction Inc., the contractor, must separate the trash from the fill, said Michael Walsh, project manager for the Army Corps. While workers are detecting larger items, smaller debris, such as beer cans, is getting through.

Walsh said he had heard only one other complaint about debris which followed a coastal storm about a month ago.

“Our hope is what’s washed up is a pocket,” Walsh said. “In the harbor, some people throw stuff away. I think we hit a spot where people were being irresponsible and dumping offshore.”
The debris is believed to have been pulled from the dock area, Ricketson said.

Newborn has agreed to clean the beaches in the coming days, weather permitting, Walsh said. The project must be completed by March 15, in time for winter flounder to spawn.

“At this point we’re going to have it cleaned up, as necessary,” she said, describing the work as “manageable.”

The debris has proved upsetting to those who frequent the beach.

A friend told Peter Manning, a local surfer, about old beer cans washing up earlier this week. A collector, he was shocked by what he found.

“I wanted to vomit,” he said. Waste that he and others spotted included radiator hoses, fan belts and an oil filter.

“They need to stop dumping so close to shore. This is toxic stuff,” he said.

Manning spent yesterday morning alerting state and environmental officials, along with members of the Rhode Island Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. The foundation raised concerns in the planning phases of the project about the makeup of the dredged material. The Army Corps has said it tested clean.

“We understood that this area had to be dredged. We just wanted to make sure pollution wasn’t added to the water column,” said David Prescott, chairman of the state chapter. “Our biggest concern is that this is done in the right way and that this isn’t going to affect our beach in the wintertime.”

“This was supposed to be clean sand and gravel from Point Judith Pond. … We were under the understanding there was no garbage.” John Torgan, Baykeeper with Save the Bay

Friday, January 19, 2007

Weaver's Cove Secret LNG Meetings Avoid the Main Issues

Today's story in the East Bay section of the Providence Journal (below) demonstrates that Weaver's Cove LNG is still alive and kicking, despite numerous recent setbacks for the proposed facility in Fall River. It is ridiculous and outrageous that Weaver's Cove is meeting with local and municipal officials to discuss security issues without the host community's participation. This is another blatant attempt by Hess LNG to buy community support by promising to finance the onerous security entourage this proposal would require to protect LNG tankers throughout Narragansett Bay.

More to the point, whatever happened with last year's "Mini-tanker" proposal Weaver's Cove was pushing? Is it possible that whole modification was just a bluff to keep the project's dubious viability alive after Congress preserved the old Brightman Street Bridge by law? Maybe so, but the Coast Guard and other security experts still want to see more information on how these mini-tankers would navigate that narrow gauntlet between the old and new bridges of the Taunton River. Until detailed, professional pilot assessments and security analyses are submitted, the permit process for Weaver's Cove is stalled.

The Army Corps will not process the dredging application without a favorable navigation safety recommendation from the Coast Guard, and none of the other federal, state, or local permits really matter if Weaver's Cove cannot dredge. My advice to Hess? Let's talk about offshore LNG and dump Fall River. JT

Local officials attend closed-door LNG meeting

01:00 AM EST on Friday, January 19, 2007

By Michael P. McKinney Journal Staff Writer

FALL RIVER — With a security guard watching the stairs, the company proposing a liquefied-natural-gas terminal barred reporters and the public from an invitation-only meeting yesterday that began getting safety and security input from several Massachusetts police and fire officials for the Weaver’s Cove Energy project’s eventual emergency management plan.

For many residents in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island’s East Bay, a major question at hearings has been how, in more detail, safety and security would be handled at a Fall River site and with LNG-carrying tankers traversing water in two states. But at the private Quequechan Club, the 2 p.m. meeting — up the stairs in the second-floor Mount Hope Room — was off-limits to three reporters as well as a man who opposes the location of the project about a half-mile from his home.

A similar closed meeting for invited Rhode Island police, fire and other first-response officials is expected to be held at the club today.

But James A. Grasso, a company spokesman who took questions at length inside the club’s lobby where the reporters gathered, said there was important reason for several such expected meetings being tailored to first responders whose specialties are emergency preparation.
“It’s a security-preparedness meeting,” Grasso said, “and if we open it to the public, some of the things they are going to be talking about would not be very secure for very long.”
He said: “We are in the process of formulating a plan and we believe we need local officials, state officials and federal officials” from whom to solicit input. And he added that just like the city’s hospitals, as well as other city facilities that already involve chemicals such as chlorine or propane, the LNG facility must come up with the emergency preparation and response plan as part of the permitting process.

Grasso said he thought that at some point, some of what is part of these meetings could be disseminated, but that it was premature at this point to say. He reiterated that the LNG industry has a strong safety record for 40 years.

But officials of the very city that would host the facility boycotted yesterday’s meeting, after Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr., the police chief and fire chief consulted on the matter. One city volunteer emergency-management official showed up, but later left, Lambert said, after learning that Fall River was not taking part. Lambert said invitations from the company to individual departments’ officials, such as the police chief, had not included notification to the mayor’s office.

“We have long agreed that there was no way to put together a viable security plan for that facility, and we communicated that many times to Weaver’s Cove,” said Lambert, who has staunchly opposed the project and made clear that city officials did not want to be, or appear, “co-opted” by the company.

And Lambert asserted the meeting was little more than a “charade” put on for shareholders of the company proposing the project. He argued that with two other LNG sites getting approvals during former Gov. Mitt Romney’s administration, the Fall River proposal “is dying a slow death.”

Grasso denied the meeting was put on for shareholders, saying it had been long planned and involved acquiring data in recent years to present to attendees. He also said, “Why would [city emergency officials] boycott the meeting? It’s in their best interest to attend.”
And he asserted that not having Fall River’s emergency officials’ involvement does not stop the company from moving forward to get its emergency-management plan approved.
Topics discussed yesterday were not clear, but some who left at the conclusion would say only that it was a general introductory session.

A precise count of attendees was difficult. Grasso estimated 25 to 30. After reporters had asked several arriving attendees for names and departments, Marcia MacClary, a spokeswoman for Weaver’s Cove Energy, told the security guard to tell people walking in that they did not have to give names or whom they represented.

Among those who attended were Lt. Robert Perry, representing the office of Bristol County District Sheriff Thomas Hodgson; Barry Wante, a homeland security officials with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency; as well as uniformed representatives of the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Latest on Weaver's Cove LNG

Yesterday, the international trade journal World Gas Intelligence reported that the two offshore LNG projects proposed near Gloucester, MA, are seen as leading the Weaver's Cove LNG project for Fall River. While officials from Hess LNG are spinning it to say that the State's support for the offshore projects means they recognize the need for LNG in general, Hess is missing the point everyone else finally seems to get: No one supports the Weaver's Cove project because the environmental and public safety risks are far too great.

While we certainly don't wish an LNG terminal on our neighboring waters, any offshore LNG option makes more sense than putting a terminal in a densely populated city at the top of a congested waterway. Offshore terminals may appear to cost more up front, but it's much easier to permit, safer for the general population, easier to secure, and minimizes any use conflict. Inshore terminals may appear cheaper up front, but when we calculate the costs of dredging and disposal, site remediation and construction, environmental damage and mitigation, and consider the lack of political support and indefinite uncertainty of a number of key permits, who would invest in Weaver's Cove at this point?

If they have any clue, Hess, Poten and Partners, and the other backers of Weaver's Cove will come up with a competing offshore strategy rather than continue to beat this dead horse. -JT