2005-08-25 / News

LNG tankers could impact bay economy

By Dotti Farrington

Results of two special studies, costing a total of $30,000, confirm that liquefied natural gas tankers in Narragansett Bay would have serious implications on many aspects of the area’s marine-dependent economy, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, the safety of first responders and emergency personnel, and access by people needing hospital care.

The results of the studies on the impacts of LNG tanker traffic in the bay were presented Tuesday by the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission to state and area officials and area residents at an event held on the Newport coastline overlooking the Newport Bridge. The AIPC, a regional planning boat contracted two companies to produce the studies to inform its constituent communities of potential impacts of transporting LNG in the bay. AIPC officials said the studies were not to develop positions for or against LNG, but to help area towns prepare for the impacts.

Much of the information compiled in the reports reflect facts and conclusions already reported elsewhere but was geared to detail impacts on area towns.

Pare Engineering of Lincoln analyzed tanker impact on access through local waters, including economic considerations. The Louis Berger Group of Needham, Mass., analyzed the impacts on traffic and public safety during expected closures of the Newport and Mt. Hope Bridges.

LNG tankers regularly passing through waters off Newport and Jamestown would change the character of the popular tourist destinations and hurt the area’s economy, according to the Pare study.

Tankers and tourism

“Newport may undergo a subtle shift in image from a sailing capital to a city on a busy commercial waterway,” the study concluded.

Any tourist-related impact would have a ripple effect on island economies, according to Pare. People able to afford any of many options about where to buy a primary or secondary home, moor a boat, or vacation could lead to severe losses if they “choose other vacation destinations if (the area’s marine) image is overshadowed by LNG tankers,” the report says.

Among reported findings was the determination by Pare that the safety and security zone around the tanker that must be cleared of traffic as required by federal regulations is more than half a mile wider than indicated in the Federal Environmental Impact Statement produced in conjunction with the application of Weaver’s Cove in Fall River. The required zone is two miles ahead of the tanker, one mile to the stern and 1,000 yards on each side.

According to Pare, the imposed security zone will dominate much of the East Passage, blocking recreational and commercial marine traffic from the entrance to the East Passage at Castle Hill to the north end of the Pell Bridge and then from Prudence Island north through the Mt. Hope Bridge, with each passage of a LNG tanker.

Water impacts

Delays on the water, as calculated in the engineering firm’s 58-page analysis, range from 18 to 33 minutes in Newport/Jamestown to a minimum of 67 minutes near the Mt. Hope Bridge. Pare detailed potential safety hazards for congested holding patterns and bottlenecks where less experienced boaters or those with nonmotorized craft must successfully skirt the security zone. Boaters will have one hour or less advance notice, and only through VHF radio channels or U.S. Coast Guard faxed notices.

Pare Engineering noted that there are 30,000 registered boats in Rhode Island, with at least 2,500 boats moored or at slips in the East Passage of Narragansett Bay, and nearly 1,500 due in recently permitted slips.

Economic risks to the successful continuation of major regattas and tall ships events, as well as to the local cruise-ship industry with designated anchorage lying within the security zone are cited in the Pare study.

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