Even by the deliberate standards of ocean cargo shipping, progress building a new marine commerce terminal on the New Bedford waterfront has been slow moving.
A lynchpin of efforts to boost New Bedford’s profile as a domestic and international cargo port, the terminal was thought to be on a fast track when it was chosen in 2010 as the future staging area for the Cape Wind offshore wind farm project in Nantucket Sound. At that point, the terminal was scheduled to open in 2012.
But nothing connected with the construction of Cape Wind, which has been in the planning and permitting stages for a decade, has happened quickly.
Despite unwavering support from Gov. Deval L. Patrick and agreements from Nstar and National Grid to buy roughly three-quarters of the wind farm’s electricity, Cape Wind remains a question mark because of financing challenges, complaints about the cost of the electricity and tireless legal appeals from a well-funded, local opposition.
Massachusetts and New Bedford officials maintain that demand for use of the terminal from shipping companies exists to make it viable without Cape Wind, but the wind farm remains the first expected tenant and the project’s uncertainty has put the construction timeline for the terminal up in the air.
Patrick has committed $35 million in state money to build the terminal, but the total cost is estimated at $50 million and no funding source has been identified to make up that $15 million gap.
“The New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal is being developed to serve as a multipurpose [terminal] that will service both the delivery, assembly, and installation of offshore wind turbines, as well as shipping and other commercial activities,” said Kate Plourd, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which is heading up work on the terminal for the Patrick administration. “The Patrick-Murray administration’s current capital plan includes $29 million for the terminal, and [the Clean Energy Center] board has authorized up to $6 million in its current budget, but the total contribution will depend on the amount and availability of funding from other sources.”
Asked what those other funding sources might be, Plourd declined to comment, but said they are not dependent on Cape Wind.
“Yes, the state will move ahead with the project regardless of Cape Wind,” Plourd said.