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April 11, 2022 9:59 AM, EDT

R.I. Truckers Back $46 Million Plan to Upgrade Commercial Fishing Port

Port of Galilee in Naragansett, R.I. The Port of Galilee occupies 38 acres in Narragansett, R.I. The facility has two terminals, 240 commercial fishing boats, and 40 docks and piers. (narragansett.gov)

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The Rhode Island Trucking Association backs the governor’s request to invest $46 million to add decades to the life of a major East Coast commercial fishing hub in the Port of Galilee while improving freight movements.

The port, operated by the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM), occupies 38 acres in the town of Narragansett. It has two port terminals, 240 commercial fishing boats and 40 docks and piers. Businesses that support the commercial fisheries there include seafood dealers, fish processors, fuel, ice supplies, fishing gear and truck transportation.

“We have a number of our members in the squid and calamari business there. Our footprint at the port is pretty extensive,” said Chris Maxwell, CEO of Rhode Island Trucking Association. Founded in 1931, the association represents 500 member companies which primarily are smaller, privately owned businesses with fleets to support their operations.

Chris Maxwell

Maxwell

Maxwell said improvements to the port “will not just impact Rhode Island’s motor carriers, because a lot of fish is being drawn out of there for other points in New England, but also the region because of the might of the Port of Galilee.”

DEM notes that even routine daily loading and unloading of commercial fishing vessels causes significant wear and tear to docks and piers.

Currently, the department has four projects valued at $15 million underway there to replace asphalt, heavy piers and 1,000 feet of bulkhead (a steel barrier between land and water that protects against storm surge).

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee

McKee

The General Assembly is considering Gov. Dan McKee’s budget for the 2023 fiscal year (from July 1 to the following June 30), which contains $46 million in essential infrastructure investments consisting of long-deferred maintenance projects to extend the port’s life by decades.

“This would be a great investment,” Maxwell said. “We see it as a good for the state and good for trucking and logistics.”

Nearly 50% of the proposed funds are to replace bulkheads and docks, and raise bulkhead caps throughout the port by 18 inches to protect against sea-level rise. Improvements also would go to roads, parking, new fire hydrants, electrical upgrades and installing security cameras.

“From its origins in the mid-1900s as a cluster of fishing shacks to its status today as the 12th-highest-ranked port by landings value nationwide, whose products are served around the world, Galilee is an economic and jobs powerhouse,” McKee said in February, when announcing his plans for the port. “Just as important, it’s a working port and fact of life for hundreds of commercial fishermen, businesses that support them, and their families.”

Jay Wegimont

Wegimont

Jay Wegimont, DEM programming services officer, told Transport Topics that the funding to keep the port’s docks, roads and support infrastructure in the best condition helps support Rhode Island’s seafood and freight industry. Around 200 commercial fishermen landed 48 million pounds of seafood, valued at $66 million, at Galilee in 2019, according to DEM figures.

“At the height of the [fishing] season, there are dozens of tractor-trailer trucks moving fresh and frozen product from Galilee’s seafood dealers and processors,” Wegimont said. “Some of this product will be distributed locally to restaurants, and much of it will make its way to regional markets in New York and Philadelphia, with a significant portion going to international markets worldwide.”

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The General Assembly is now responsible for accepting or changing the governor’s recommendations and will pass its version of the state’s budget in June.

Wegimont said DEM is preparing background material to help it start projects as soon as new funds become available.

“These are large, complex and specialized efforts that will require significant design and permitting before going to construction. The program anticipates completion of these construction elements by December 2026,” he added.

Terry Gray, DEM acting director, earlier this year noted there is no normal wear and tear to the port’s infrastructure unlike fixed assets.

“The port is a dynamic marine environment that is subject to tide, wind, sun, salt, storms, storm surges, sea level rise, and many other conditions and factors, and really needs this attention,” Gray said. “On behalf of DEM and all our hardworking partners at Galilee, we deeply appreciate Gov. McKee’s unprecedented investment in one of Rhode Island’s most critical economic assets.”

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