economic development

Lawmakers urged to support R.I. port improvements

A CONTAINER is loaded onto a truck at the Port of Boston.
Posted 2/28/12

NORTH KINGSTOWN – Industrial leaders at the port of Providence and at Quonset Point are urging members of the state Senate to support improvements to the ports they say are necessary for surrounding industries and the state’s economy to grow.

Representatives from Electric Boat, Seafreeze, Deepwater Wind, Moran Shipping and Motiva Enterprises all impressed upon lawmakers the importance of ocean shipping to the state’s economy, during a Senate summit on port resources held Monday night.

In 2009 the General Assembly formed a port commission to investigate seaports at Providence, Quonset and Newport. It concluded the ports could generate an additional 1,000 jobs, $70 million in personal income and $127 million in business revenue provided certain steps are taken. Recommendations include the creation of a Rhode Island Port Marketing Collaborative and a port economic policy ombudsperson to oversee their operation.

“You can think of the marketing collaborative as a chamber of commerce for the ports,” Sen. William A. Walaska, D-Warwick, who served as commission chairman, said at the summit.

The Quonset port has not been dredged since the 1970s and is at a current depth of 29 feet. The preferred depth is 32 feet. Currently the port of Providence is at 40 feet and was last dredged in 2004. Industrial leaders said they have invested heavily in improvements to their facilities, showing their commitment to the state.

The commission supported the issuance of $7.5 million in revenue bonds by the Quonset Development Corporation for the Quonset dredging. In addition, the R.I. Economic Development Corporation is planning to invest $20 million - $10.5 million of which are from federal grants – to invest in cranes and other improvements to the Providence and Quonset ports.

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One of the most pressing concerns isn't an economic issue as much as an environmental issue.

A simple web search shows where in San Francisco: "234 invasive species had taken root in the Bay-Delta ecosystem; these species now dominate many of the original plant and animal communities. In the bay's benthic community -- its sediment dwellers -- invasive organisms account for between 40 percent and 100 percent of the common species, up to 97 percent of the total number of organisms, and up to 99 percent of the biomass" But that's not all-"from 1961 to 1995 the average rate increased to one new species every 14 weeks" Can RI afford that? Or, will they be left with a mess fostered upon the seafood and hospitality industries which would negate any employment gains offered through an expanded water port or wind farm business?

New York, Cleveland, Baltimore-- all have struggled with managing the invasive species. How does RI think it can avoid the problems or manage it. That's the real debate that should be discussed. Both green and those watching all those synergistic sectors impacted need to be reviewed for their bottom line impacts as well.

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