CRMC issues deficiency notice for proposed Block Island docks

THE STATE COASTAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT COUNCIL issued a deficiency notice to Bluewater LLC in its application to build docking in Block Island. / COURTESY RHODE ISLAND FAST FERRY
THE STATE COASTAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT COUNCIL issued a deficiency notice to Bluewater LLC in its application to build docking in Block Island. / COURTESY RHODE ISLAND FAST FERRY

SOUTH KINGSTOWN — The state Coastal Resource Management Council issued March 28 a deficiency notice to Bluewater LLC for its application to build docking for Rhode Island Fast Ferry in Old Harbor on Block Island, saying that Bluewater’s owner, Paul Filippi, and the company did not provide the “necessary proof of ownership” for the upland work, nor the “necessary consent” from both the federal government and the town of New Shoreham for tidal waters affected by the company’s submitted proposal.

The CRMC’s notice was issued two days prior to the first of two hearings held at the R.I. Division of Public Utilities and Carriers about the docking controversy. In those hearings, New Shoreham town officials argued that it doesn’t believe North Kingstown-based Rhode Island Fast Ferry, owned by Charles A. Donadio Jr. and received approval for an operations license in September 2016, can make the new docks in Old Harbor a reality.

According to the notice, written by CRMC Supervising Environmental Scientist David Reis, the proposed 10-foot-wide paver pathway is proposed on an upland area associated with the harbor’s east breakwater constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While the area is not a platted lot within New Shoreham, the CRMC, Reis wrote, believes the area is “controlled” by the Army Corps and “requires their approval.”

Also, Old Harbor’s east breakwater area is subject to a “right-of-way agreement” between the federal government and New Shoreham, Reis wrote, and “until demonstrated otherwise,” CRMC says any work affecting that area would require consent from those two parties. If the ownership isn’t claimed by the Army Corps, it would be defaulted to the state, Reis writes.

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Regarding the Red Stone Breakwater, Reis wrote the CRMC granted New Shoreham a 50-year lease on April 1, 2012 for the breakwater structure and Filippi “does not have riparian (littoral) rights to the tidal water area north of the town,” and would also need New Shoreham’s sign-off for structures or activities in the area.

CRMC spokesperson Laura Dwyer said Filippi has responded to CRMC about the notice, letting it know he and Rhode Island Fast Ferry are “working on gathering the required information” being asked in the notice, which is “proof of property ownership…for all areas affected by the project.”

Filippi’s plans call for refurbishing the former Mount Hope dock, previously used by the Mount Hope Ferry steamship until 1934, in Old Harbor. Filippi said Monday he is working on addressing the deficiencies stated in the notice and plans to resubmit the application to CRMC.

Donadio said Monday there wouldn’t be enough time to get a permit from CRMC and build a dock before this summer, so Rhode Island Fast Ferry is shifting its goal to have seasonal fast ferry service from Quonset Point to Block Island in conjunction with his current service to Martha’s Vineyard by the summer of 2019.

“I’m hopeful that this is a positive project for the state of Rhode Island, as well as for the visitors and residents of Block Island,” Donadio said. “This is a service that will help get cars off of the highway and give another choice and convenient location to depart from Rhode Island to Block Island. Everything about this is positive.”

James Bessette is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Research@PBN.com.