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Fishermen will remain at State Pier in New London

New London — The Connecticut Port Authority has informed two commercial fishing businesses they can remain at State Pier for the foreseeable future.

The agreement, though not yet in written form, removes a cloud of uncertainty that has lingered over the two businesses for the past several years. State Pier is being redeveloped to accommodate the offshore wind industry, and the future for its tenants has been in limbo.

State Pier is actually composed of two different piers. The businesses, Montville-based Donna May Fisheries and Waterford-based Out of Our Shell Enterprises, together operate four boats off the west side of Central Vermont Railroad Pier, known locally as CV Pier.

“It’s been two years of stress,” said Kevin Debbis, owner of Donna May Fisheries. “This is something to celebrate.”

Debbis, a scallop fisherman, along with other State Pier tenants were notified early last year that they had to vacate the pier as the authority prepared to clear the site for the $235.5 million reconstruction project.

State and local officials then worked with the authority to come up with ideas for a new home for the fishermen. The authority  enlisted a contractor to identify possible nearby sites, which had include the existing pier at Fort Trumbull leased by New London Seafood. New London Mayor Michael Passero at one point offered up a spot along the city’s waterfront for a new pier but the city never found funding for its construction.

The most recent idea was to place a 120-foot barge near the pier, along with a 60-foot gangway to allow a forklift to access the barge from the boats.

“It turns out the simplest and most elegant solution is where they are currently,” said Connecticut Port Authority Executive Director John Henshaw.

The fishermen will be accommodated on the western side of the pier, which is outside of the construction project area, Henshaw said. He said he envisions a fenced off area that allows room for the fishermen to enter and exit the pier, along with a dedicated parking area.

Henshaw said the authority will negotiate terms of a new lease once the final designs for the parking, access, storage and berthing areas are completed. The engineering and consulting firm Moffatt & Nichol, the engineer of record for the property, is working on the design.

Henshaw said the terms of the new lease would then come before the authority board. For now, the authority is honoring the terms of pier operator Gateway’s prior month-to-month rent free arrangement with the fishermen.

“I was told not to worry about nothing - just go to work,” Debbis said.

g.smith@theday.com

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