Tankers laden with liquefied natural gas (LNG) navigating the waters of Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island would hurt the state’s economy by interfering with recreational boating, the seasonal tourism trade, commercial fishery operations, ferry operations and cruise ships, according to studies released this week.

The studies, which were commissioned by the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC), analyzed how the local economy, traffic and water activities would be affected by LNG tankers on the Narragansett Bay on their way to the proposed Weaver’s Cove LNG import terminal in Fall River, MA. The controversial LNG project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last month (see Daily GPI, July 1).

The AIPC is a joint municipal planning commission that deals with Aquidneck Island issues, such as transportation, and whose members include the cities/towns of Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth, RI. Aquidneck Island is the largest island in Narragansett Bay.

“The effect of unannounced LNG tanker transit, with its 3.2-mile long by 1.2-mile wide safety and security zone, will be of substantive impact on the economy of Newport, Aquidneck Island and the state of Rhode Island. When combined with vehicular traffic impacts resulting from bridge closures and with the general anxiety associated with safety, LNG tanker transport has the potential to also affect the marine-oriented way of life for residents of Aquidneck Island communities,” said one of the studies that was conducted by Pare Engineering Corp. of Lincoln, RI.

“Of great economic impact would be the potential loss of Newport’s ability to retain major regattas and events such as the Tall Ships that attract local, national and international participation,” the Pare study said. “LNG tanker traffic [also] may affect Newport’s reputation as a tourist destination. The cruise ship industry could find Newport less attractive as unannounced LNG tanker safety and security zones may preclude use of the cruise ship mooring areas west of Goat Island” in Newport, it noted.

The study reported that the Newport tourism industry generates nearly $90 million in annual wages and $263 million in revenue, while the Middletown tourism industry produces $25 million in annual wages and about $110 million in revenue.

The impact of LNG traffic could be most felt in Portsmouth, “where proposed high-end lifestyle residential development promises to yield $4 million annually in local property taxes,” the study said.

If eventually built, the $250 million Weaver’s Cove LNG project, which is sponsored by Amerada Hess and Poten & Partners, would provide 800 MMcf/d of peak sendout capacity and 200,000 metric tons of LNG storage in New England.

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