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Marine Log

May 10, 2007

Setback for Weaver's Cove LNG project

The Coast Guard Captain of the Port, Southeastern New England, has released a preliminary review of Weaver's Cove Energy's proposal to use smaller liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers capable of passing through the old Brightman Street Bridge in the Taunton River, between the cities of Fall River and Somerset, Massachusetts.

Capt. Roy A. Nash, the Captain of the Port, stated "it appears that the waterway may not be suitable for the type and frequency of LNG marine traffic contained in your smaller tanker proposal".

In the smaller tanker plan, Weaver's Cove proposes to double the frequency of LNG deliveries from the original proposal, increasing the number of vessels arriving through Narragansett and Mount Hope Bays to a range of 120-130 per year.

The Weaver's Cove proposal was submitted in response to Federal legislation that in effect required the existing (old) Brightman Street drawbridge to remain. The old bridge was originally scheduled to be removed upon completion of the new Brightman Street bridge. The old bridge has a 98-foot navigational opening for ships, and the 145-foot wide tankers originally proposed by Weaver's Cove could not pass through it. The new bridge has a 200-foot wide navigational opening.

In his letter to Weaver's Cove reporting the findings of his preliminary assessment of the small tanker proposal, Capt. Nash listed several issues impacting to the suitability of the waterway for LNG transits, including:

  • Proximity of the waterway to population concentrations,

  • Proximity of the Brightman Street Bridges to each other,

  • Dimensions and condition of the old Brightman Street Bridge,

  • Channel offset between bridges,

  • Severe turn required beneath and just north of the Braga Bridge

  • Close proximity of the channel to Fall River piers, infrastructure (e.g., I-195/Braga Bridge) and USS Massachusetts museum complex,

  • Prolonged, frequent exposure of the Fall River metropolitan region to safety and security risks during the transits,

  • Expected delays to marine and vehicular traffic associated with frequent LNG tankers navigating through or under five bridge crossings,

  • Conditions favorable to inbound and outbound transits are severely limited by vessel draft, tide, wind, visibility, and infrastructure.

Captain Nash further noted the need for "additional workshop discussions with state and local law enforcement and public safety officials to ensure the risks, impacts, resource demands, capabilities, and coordination requirements (of the smaller tanker proposal) are well understood and quantified."

The public will be afforded an opportunity to comment to the Coast Guard on Weaver's Cove Energy's smaller tanker proposal in a supplemental review process.

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