On September 24th, the Obama Administration’s Ocean Policy Task Force, charged with developing a national ocean policy framework, visited Providence to hear about coastal issues affecting New England.  At a kick-off press conference held at India Point Park, NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco recognized Providence’s “thriving working waterfront.”

NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco

Later in the day, the Task Force held a public hearing at the Rhode Island Convention Center which was attended by more than 250 people.  Providence Working Waterfront Alliance member Elizabeth Hernberg of Sprague Energy testified before the Task Force about the critical need to maintain waterways like Providence’s recently dredged 40ft federal channel:

My name is Elizabeth Hernberg and I am with Sprague Energy Corp. Sprague is an energy supplier based in Portsmouth, NH and serves the New England market with a variety of distillates, residual fuels, bio fuels and other. We own and operate nearly 8 million barrels petroleum storage in 17 terminals on the East Coast for direct and indirect supply of home heating oil, commercial and industrial uses.

My message today relates to the life-line that the water provides Sprague not only for Providence, but also the rest of our terminal network. As you may know, this region lacks refining assets as well as pipelines, and therefore the only avenue for petroleum product supply is either over land or by sea. The vast majority of our product comes by vessel, as is the case with most of our regional industry.

In Providence, we are fortunate to have a natural asset on the waterfront with a very deep draft. This has been preserved, as the Army Core of Engineers invested tens of millions of dollars to dredge this area five or so years ago. Sprague spent about $1 million more to dredge our own berth providing over 35 ft draft.

In your discussions on Ocean Policy, please keep this unique feature of New England, and Providence, and its heavy reliance on marine vessels to supply the petroleum needs of this region in mind.

The Providence Working Waterfront Alliance would like to thank the Ocean Policy Task Force for visiting Providence to hear about issues affecting our ports and working waterfronts.

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