STATE HOUSE, BOSTON — When Cabinet secretaries sit before a legislative committee for an oversight hearing, it is usually a time for lawmakers to question the administration on policy, implementation of programs and how taxpayer money is being spent broadly across the state. But it can also be a good chance for legislators to check in on pet projects.

That was the case Wednesday when Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton sat before the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets to detail his executive office's $211 million in capital spending plan for this fiscal year. After a 35-minute presentation, Beaton fielded questions from the committee.

Chairman Antonio Cabral of New Bedford, whose House Bonding hearings rarely pass without a plug for the long-stalled South Coast Rail project, also had a handful of local issues he wanted Beaton to weigh in on.

When will the process of handing over management of the State Pier in New Bedford to MassDevelopment occur, Cabral asked. Beaton said the transition would occur "imminently" or within the next few weeks.

And what, Cabral asked, about the dredging project in New Bedford Harbor? When will that get underway? Beaton said it is an important project, but one that the state needs to identify the best way to pay for.

Cabral also wanted to know the latest on the Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey, the official vessel of the commonwealth, which is undergoing repairs at Boothbay Harbor Shipyard in Maine.

"It's on course. The repairs are happening. DCR has its hand on the tiller right now, figuratively speaking," Beaton said. He added that the Massachusetts Maritime Academy is part of the conversation around where the ship will be homeported once it returns to Massachusetts.

--Colin A. Young, State House News Service