Two fast ferry intervenors deniedTown approved, Interstate provisional
The Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, a division of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), has issued its decision on four applications to intervene in a fast ferry application that is proposed to run from Quonset Point, R.I.
In an order issued on Tuesday, Sept. 24, the Division granted the Town of New Shoreham intervenor status. Having intervenor status means that the town will have legal rights to participate in the discussion while the decision on Rhode Island Fast Ferry’s application to operate a high-speed ferry is being made. For example, the town will be allowed to file testimony during this process.
However, the Division denied ferry company Block Island Express, which operates the New London ferry, and also denied Intrastate Nav., which owns the ferry terminal in Block Island’s Old Harbor.
As for ferry company Interstate Navigation, which also filed an application to intervene, the Division granted the status with stipulations. Interstate can only participate by arguing if there is a “public need” for the new ferry.
The Division’s order said: “The Division considers the scope of this participation as relating to the Applicant’s [Interstate] burden of proof to demonstrate that ‘public convenience and necessity require[s] the services.’ However, the Division will not permit Interstate to participate beyond this limited issue.”
The order also said, “As Interstate’s sole interest in this case is to preserve the financial viability of its ‘year round lifeline service to Block Island,’ which is provided through the use of traditional (slow) ferry vessels, the Division is unable to characterize Interstate’s interest as one ‘directly affected’ by the Applicant’s proposed high-speed ferry service.”
Interstate’s attorney Mike McElroy weighed in on this decision to The Block Island Times.
“Interstate is pleased that the division agrees that it’s in the public interest to allow Interstate to fully participate in this docket for the purpose of safeguarding the year-round lifeline services Interstate provides to Block Island, and that the Division will consider the impact the proposed service would have on Interstate’s existing lifeline service,” McElroy said.
Rhode Island Fast Ferry president Charles Donadio said in a statement to The Block Island Times he is also “very pleased with the recent Order of the PUC, which denied the intervention of Block Island Express and Intrastate Nav. Company and, for the first time, limited Interstate Navigation’s participation to just the ‘public convenience and necessity’ portion of the upcoming hearing process.”
Of the two denied applications, the Sept. 24 Division order said: “To start, the Division finds that none of the Movants [intervenor applicants] have demonstrated a statutory right or a ‘directly affected’ interest.”
The order said that since Rhode Island Fast Ferry will not dock on Intrastate Nav.’s property, there is only an “indirect connection” between the fast ferry and Intrastate.
In addition, both Intrastate Nav. and Block Island Express filed concerns about dock space and harbor congestion. The Division responded to this: “The Division finds that because it must defer to the CRMC [Coastal Resources Management Council] and New Shoreham’s harbormaster concerning matters related to boat docks and ferry congestion in Old Harbor, it would be impractical for the Division to spend any significant time addressing these issues.”
The order said of the town’s approval: “As an initial finding, the Division will permit the intervention of the Town. The Division finds that because RIFF [Rhode Island Fast Ferry] did not object to the Town’s request to intervene in this docket, the request must be approved by the operation of law.”
Rhode Island Fast Ferry objected to three of the four applications, but it did not issue a response to the Division regarding the town’s application.