Charlestown council looking for direction on Invenergy at meeting Monday night

Charlestown council looking for direction on Invenergy at meeting Monday night

The Westerly Sun
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CHARLESTOWN — Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero will update the Town Council Monday night on issues surrounding the proposed Invenergy power plant, which is looking to the Narragansett Indian Tribe in Charlestown as a source of backup cooling water for its turbines. Also on the agenda are the Harbor Management Plan and the composition of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Invenergy LLC has a contract with members of the Narragansett Tribe to remove water from Indian Cedar Swamp for its Clear River Energy Center, a gas- and oil-fired plant in Burrillville. The water, up to 725,000 gallons per day, would be trucked to the plant. The town opposes the plan and was granted intervenor status by the state energy siting board in October. The siting board held a hearing in Charlestown last week. Ruggiero has been given access to unredacted documents for the project, but he was not allowed to disclose any of the information, even to the Town Council. 

The council requested an update from Ruggiero for some direction on how the town should proceed, council President Virginia Lee said Saturday. “Now that hearing is over, what can we expect in terms of process, do we need to hire additional expertise, what are the financial implications, what is next?” she asked. 

Removing water from the Lower Wood Aquifer could lower the water table and affect the town’s wells, septic systems, wetlands and waterways, Lee said. The town has hired a hydrogeologist and a wetlands expert to study the problem. 

“Every house, every public building, every office building draws from their well and puts it right back into their septic system, into the ground,” she said. “The water is used and then reused and then it recharges and it keeps the water table virtually the same level.” Lee said the system is sustainable but removing large quantities of water could cause problems.

She said she wanted transparency about the details of the project. “Who ever heard of a public utility that conducts everything in secret? It’s appalling.”

The siting board’s final hearing for the plant was originally supposed to start this month, but has been pushed back to April because the plant’s second operational unit was disqualified from an upcoming Northeast region electricity auction. 

In other business, the council will revisit the question of cutting the Parks and Recreation Commission from 13 to 9 members. Last month the council voted to keep the membership at 13, but a rescision of that vote is on the agenda and the council could vote on two resolutions to cut the number of members.

Two ordinances pertaining to the town’s Harbor Management Plan will be read. Changes were requiredfor the town to implement the plan, which has been updated for the first time since 1989, said Lee. A public hearing will be held at the next council meeting on Jan. 8. 

Monday’s agenda also includes a request for extended hours at the Wilcox Tavern; a bike trail project; and a Community Development Block Grant application.


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