Rhode Island’s General Assembly has sent two resolutions to Gov. Lincoln Chafee approving plans of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. to issue $7.5 million of bonds for maintenance dredging at Port of Davisville in North Kingstown.
Chafee supports the measure, which will enable Port of Davisville to accommodate larger ships. The port, on Quonset Point about 20 miles south of Providence, is the eighth-largest auto importer in North America.
The resolutions, sponsored by Sen. William Walaska, D-Warwick, and Rep. Helio Melo, D-East Providence, approve a funding request for the bonds under the Kushner Public Corporation Debt Management Act.
The Kushner law requires legislative oversight of and approval for bonding or other debt that Rhode Island’s quasi-public corporations incur.
Lawmakers introduced a package of bills earlier this year after a three-year study by a special legislative commission that focused on potential economic growth from further development and marketing of the state’s ports.
Rhode Island’s EDC will issue the bonds through its subsidiary, the Quonset Development Corp.
According to state officials, revenues from the QDC and companies using the Davisville port and the piers for maritime business would pay for the bonds.
In proposing the Davisville bond issue, the study panel recommended not using federal funding for the dredging project, to avoid imposition of a harbor maintenance tax on port users.
“The fact that Davisville is not subject to the tax is a major competitive advantage for the port and the state,” an Assembly official said.
The port, located in Quonset Business Park, imports more than 150,000 autos annually, according to figures released in 2011. Another 41,000 came to Davisville by rail.
The governor, during a recent visit, called it “one of Rhode Island’s key assets.”
It requires maintenance dredging to 32 feet and the removal of 260,000 cubic yards of material to accommodate fully loaded ships, whose average depth is 27 feet. The current depth of the pier area, turning basin and access channel is 27 feet, and can be as shallow as 25 feet, depending on the tides.
The seven-member EDC has six new members, whom Chafee appointed in the aftermath of the 38 Studios controversy.
The agency guaranteed a $75 million loan guarantee to 38 Studios, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s video-game company.
38 Studios filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in Delaware on Thursday, three weeks after Schilling laid off his staff.