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New Bedford called top wind staging area

The state’s top environmental and energy official said Wednesday that he is “absolutely convinced” that South Terminal in New Bedford will be the primary staging area for Cape Wind, despite the offshore wind farm’s developers exploration of other options in Rhode Island.

The port project, also known as the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, was announced in 2010 as a coup for the South Coast fishing port that would bring hundreds of immediate and long-term jobs to the city. Since then, Cape Wind developers have met with Rhode Island officials to discuss the possibility of using the port of Quonset, in North Kingstown, for some staging work.

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“I am absolutely convinced that New Bedford will be the primary staging port for Cape Wind and ­future developments that are not Cape Wind-related,” Richard J. Sullivan Jr., secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said Wednesday.

Sullivan testified before the House Bonding Committee — chaired by Representative Antonio Cabral, Democrat of New Bedford — on the Patrick administration’s $911 million bond bill for environmental and energy capital spending, which includes roughly $24 million for the South Terminal project.

The new port is expected to cost $100 million, including permitting and design, construction, dredging of the harbor, and environmental remediation and mitigation to clean the harbor’s polluted waters and reseed the shellfish population.

Sullivan said the project is on a tight 19-month schedule to meet the timetable for Cape Wind for the start of 2014, but said he understands why Cape Wind officials would be exploring options should any part of the project be delayed.

“This isn’t just a port for Cape Wind; it was never just a port for Cape Wind,” he said. “Certainly we are on a timeline to be able to meet their timelines, but Cape Wind is not the only reason.

‘This isn’t just a port for Cape Wind; it was never just a port for Cape Wind.’

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“In fact, if it was the only reason, we probably wouldn’t be building this port,” Sullivan said, pointing out that the terminal has been designed to handle bulk cargo.

Governor Deval Patrick broke ground on the port project Monday, and it is expected to be completed later this year. In addition to Cape Wind, the US Department of Energy estimates that the burgeoning off-shore wind industry could create 43,000 jobs nationwide, many of which the administration ­believes could have tie-ins to the port of New Bedford.

In early April, members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation wrote a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu asking for approval of Cape Wind’s loan guarantee “so this important project can begin construction.”

On Wednesday, Cabral asked whether the terminal project would make the affected area of New Bedford Harbor, which is separate from the Superfund site cleanup project. safe for swimming and fishing. “That’s the game plan,” Sullivan said.

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