PORTSMOUTH — The state Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) on Tuesday night, July 22, will consider an application by the Town of Portsmouth and A&R Marine Corp. to build a new ferry pier on Prudence Island.
The CRMC hearing begins at 6 p.m. in Conference Room B of the Administration Building, 1 Capitol Hill, Providence.
The town is leasing to A&R Marine — doing business as Prudence & Bay Islands Transport — a 15,000-square-foot parcel adjacent to Prudence Island Ferry’s existing ferry terminal at Homestead.
The plan calls for constructing and maintaining a timber ferry pier — 96 feet long and 16 feet wide — with a 30-foot-long transfer bridge along with associated timber positioning dolphins.
Since the project is in Type 2 waters, it requires a special exception from CRMC and a public hearing, according to the coastal council’s meeting agenda.
The Town Council approved a plan July 17 to lease the property to A&R Marine. Under the terms of the agreement, the lease runs for 10 years and A&R Marine will pay the town $7,500 annually, plus an annual increase to account for the Consumer Price Index.
The lease also calls for A&R Marine to hold $1 million in liability insurance.
In February, the R.I. Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (DPUC) granted A&R Marine a conditional certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to operate a ferry between Bristol, Prudence Island and Hog Island.
That put the new company in direct competition with the existing Prudence Island Ferry, which has been the sole provider of ferry service since the mid-’80s. (The existing service does not extend to Hog Island.)
While there will be docks for both ferries on Prudence Island should the A&R Marine landing be approved and built, there’s only one dock at this time on the other end of the ride in Bristol. That landing, on Thames Street, was sold by Prudence Island Ferry owner Bruce Medley to the Town of Bristol last year for $800,000. The town then leased the property back to Mr. Medley in an agreement that was originally to expire June 14.
The lease with Prudence Island Ferry was later extended through the summer, but Bristol officials have previously indicated that A&R Marine will get the use of the dock after that. On Tuesday, however, Mr. Medley, said he’s heard no official word from Bristol either way.
A story in last week’s Portsmouth Times, which reported that Prudence Island Ferry has decided to cease service after the summer and cede the work to A&R Marine, was incorrect. Mr. Medley has given no indication in recent months that he plans to shut down and has said previously that if he can’t dock his boat on Thames Street in Bristol, he will seek an alternate spot.
Seeking stay of ruling
Prudence Island Ferry is also seeking a court order to block or delay its competition from starting up a new ferry.
According to the Prudence Island Ferry Facebook page, on July 17 the company filed for a stay of A&R Marine’s CPCN in Superior Court in Providence. The hearing is scheduled for Monday, July 28, according to the statement.
“If we prevail, any further action by Spirito to grant a certificate STOPS until there is a full hearing on the matter, maybe six months, maybe a year, maybe never,” stated the post, referring to John Spirito, chief of the Division’s legal services and the person who oversaw the A&R Marine hearing.
“We will now be able to thwart efforts which so far have prevented us from obtaining a long term lease in Bristol. Pending litigation will delay any bank loans on docks or equipment. We have sat back and watched them spend all their money, it is now time to turn the tide.”