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Harbor Views on New Haven

Harbor Views on New Haven

New Haven Independent, July 24, 2019

By CCM staff

Connecticut is perfectly situated between New York City and Boston, two cities that need no introduction on an international scale.

Appearing on the latest episode of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities’ radio program “The Municipal Voice,” Judi Sheiffele, the executive director of the New Haven Port Authority, made the case that her port is perfectly situated for economic development in its own right.

One of the most impressive pieces of information about the port: The Army Corps of Engineers places New Haven as the 53rd most busy by volume, as well as being the busiest port between the behemoths of New York and Boston.

Most of the freight, according to Sheiffele, is liquid freight, including home heating oil, gas, and even jet fuel. The rest of the freight is made up of things like salts, including 90 percent of the salts used on the roads and salts used by the Water Pollution Control Authorities to break down materials.

While concerns about the quality of the air and pollutants have been raised for years, Sheiffele noted that there are many mitigating factors. For one, new U.S. and International regulations have capped the sulfur that comes from boats.

Also, Sheiffele estimated 126 trucks are taken off I-91 weekly because the jet fuel that is stored in New Haven runs to Hartford by pipeline to be used at Bradley Airport.  The salts used by the WPCA take approximately 600 trucks off the roads from the Port of New York. These are very real savings on emissions from trucks, and plenty of cars off the road.

Additionally, “most of the contaminants found in the sediment, are legacy contaminants,” she noted, “that has little to do with current activities.” 

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Many New Haveners may not be aware how far the harbor developed, but most of Long Wharf has been built up with water reaching Water Street at one point in time. Much of this soil was dredged out of the harbor to deepen it to the current depth of 35 feet.

The only way to grow the Port of New Haven is to deepen it, and the Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of a feasibility study on just that. There is a “break-even” line at 40 feet, which means dredging up five feet of sediment.

These five feet will allow the next size class of boats to port in New Haven Harbor. But who that is, nobody knows, Sheiffele said: “At this point, we don’t even know who’s not coming in here.”

These plans are not going to happen overnight. They will have to be studied, and reauthorized by the U.S. Senate.

In the more immediate future, New Haven has big plans for Long Wharf, including a complete revamping of its image. Scheiffele said that she wants to see more recreational boats out on the water. There have also been discussions with the New Haven Boat House on how best to educate recreational communities about safety when it comes to big ships.

Planning by town and state officials in the past has kept most of the harbor activity on the east side, but there’s plenty of room for both business and sport in New Haven Harbor.

For many people, the New Haven Harbor is just a collection of tanks on the side of 91, but that’s only part of the story. It is a microcosm of companies that have real benefits for the area, perfectly situated to boost the area economically.

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