Narragansetts agree to supply backup water to proposed Burrillville power plant

Narragansetts agree to supply backup water to proposed Burrillville power plant

The Westerly Sun


Invenergy has reached water-supply agreements with the Narragansett Indian Tribe and Benn Water & Heavy Transport Corp., a private water-trucking and supply company in Ashaway, for the proposed 900-megawatt Clear River Energy Center in Burrillville, it was announced Thursday.

Should the project ever require additional water resources, the agreements allow either the Narragansett Tribe or Benn Water to serve as supplemental suppliers for the proposed plant.

The $1 billion natural gas-fired power plant would require about 15,000 gallons of water per day, which will be supplied primarily by the Town of Johnston through an agreement that will net $18 million for the town over a 20-year period.

The Town of Burrillville and the Conservation Law Foundation are challenging Johnston’s agreement with Invenergy in Superior Court.

Invenergy will need “just two to three truck deliveries to get water from Johnston to the plant on a typical day — far less deliveries than your average grocery store,” according to a press release from the company.

Providing backup water supplies was a requirement of state regulators for the project.

The Benn Water agreement identifies municipal water systems the company has the ability to use to supply its business needs, according to a Sept. 28 supplemental water-supply assessment prepared for Invenergy by the ESS Group, of East Providence, an environmental engineering firm.

Benn Water’s water sources were redacted from the report, but the company “represented its historical supply to be 8 million gallons per year and indicated that those supply sources do not place limits on the company’s bulk purchases,” according to the ESS report.

Benn Water is a third-generation, family-owned business that has been providing bulk water deliveries to Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut for 49 years. The owners of Benn Water could not be reached for comment.

The ESS report also indicated that the Clear River Energy Center secured a commitment from the Narragansett Indian Tribe to supply water from wells located on tribal land, which obtain water from the southern portion of the Lower Wood Aquifer, located in the Pawcatuck River watershed. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the aquifer has the potential to yield more than 6 million gallons per day, according to Invenergy.

“We are fortunate to have plentiful water supplies on our reservation, and so it makes a lot of economic sense for us to serve as a backup provider for the Clear River Energy Center,” said John Brown, Narragansett Indian Tribe medicine man, in the Invenergy release. “This provides the tribe with a steady source of much-needed new revenue that we can use to support our community.”

The Invenergy agreement also stipulates that the water from the tribal wells will be transported to the power plant by Benn Water.

Whether the project taps into its water supplies or not, both the Narragansett Tribe and Benn Water will receive annual payments of an undisclosed amount from Invenergy.

The Clear River Energy Center proposal is currently under review by the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board. It has faced stiff opposition from local and environmental interests.

chewitt@thewesterlysun.com


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