Hopkinton backs Charlestown bid to block tribal water deal

Hopkinton backs Charlestown bid to block tribal water deal

The Westerly Sun

HOPKINTON — Members of the Hopkinton Town Council voted unanimously Monday to send a letter of support to Charlestown, congratulating the town on having received intervenor status in its effort to halt the sale of water by the Narragansett Tribe to a proposed power plant.

Council President Frank Landolfi said he was troubled by the possible effects of such a sale on the entire area. “There’s too many consequences, I think, of that happening,” he said. “I think we need to band with the others as we did with the railroad. Unfortunately, the Narragansett Tribe was with us on the railroad. This wasn’t a very transparent process.”

In October, the Rhode Island Energy Facilities Siting Board granted Charlestown limited intervenor status in Invenergy Development LLC’s application to build its proposed Clear River Energy Center in Burrilville.

The town asked to intervene after learning that the Narragansett Tribe had made a deal with Invenergy to sell water to the facility, which would require up to 750,000 gallons of water per day. The plant would burn natural gas and oil. The tribe would be selling water from the aquifer that supplies several southern Rhode Island and Connecticut towns. The deal has also been controversial within the tribe, with some members claiming it was made illegally.

Hopkinton councilor Barbara Capalbo described the consequences of the water deal to Hopkinton residents as potentially serious.

“The consequences are obvious,” she said. “We have dry wells for part of the season, and I’m sure the Charlestown area does as well. It’s all of our aquifer.”

The council also heard a progress report on the installation of the streetlights the town has purchased from National Grid as part of the Partnership for Rhode Island Streetlights Management, or PRISM. Hopkinton is paying $280,000 for its streetlights, but the town will save nearly $30,000 in annual maintenance costs, which will be performed by PRISM contractors. The town has also chosen energy efficient bulbs, which will save even more money.

Finance Director Brian Rosso told the council that he expected the installation to be completed sometime in December. “All the materials have been ordered and received by PRISM,” he said. “That’s kind of the biggest lag. It takes several months sometimes for them to deliver those materials. PRISM also informed me that the installation will begin in a couple of weeks and that it usually takes about six weeks to complete.”

In other business, the council approved renewing an agreement with Direct Energy to provide electricity at a fixed rate. The town’s current three-year contract with Direct Energy is expiring soon, and councilors voted to enter into a two-year agreement with the company.

Rosso explained that Hopkinton has been a member of a consortium of municipalities that have purchased power from Direct Energy through the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns.

“They gave the contract to Direct Energy, and that’s what we’ve used in the past,” he said. “Much lower rates than we’re going to find anywhere else.”

Finally, councilors praised the work of police, Town Manager William McGarry, Councilor Thomas Buck and the Department of Public Works during and following last week’s storm.

Councilor Sylvia Thompson said a large number of downed trees had made Tomaquag Road impassable and residents had told her how quickly the town had cleared them away.

“They were actually amazed at what public works did and how quickly they did it, because it was a mess,” she said.




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