Comments on Draft EIS from Rhode Island Officials Tell Us Draft Wasn’t Clear

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) held a public comment forum on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement in Providence in December 2015, and the FRA held an open comment period from November 2015 to February 2016 during which they received roughly 3,200 comments. None of those comments were from Charlestown and only one of them mentioned Charlestown.

Charlestown didn’t know about the process to review the Draft Environmental Impact Statement even though most of the Rhode Island impact is in our town. Some Rhode Island officials did know about the process, even commented on the plan, but failed to alert Charlestown and other impacted towns. Had we been able to comment during the official comment period we could have given not just our opinion, but there would have been a better informed plan.

There are over 4000 pages of comments. Below we have linked the comments from Rhode island officials or stakeholders that we were able to find.

RI Governor Gina Raimondo February 2, 2016, in support of the proposal, but no mention of impacts on South County.

RI Statewide Planning February 2, 2016, generally in support of the proposal but unable to ascertain the environmental impacts and wants more information on the Old Saybrook to Kenyon Bypass. Mentions impacts in Charlestown, but didn’t pass any of this concern or information on to Charlestown’s government.

RI Historic Preservation December 23, 2015. They seem to say that there is not enough information, the maps have no detail and are at a “macro scale“, but they did sign off on the document. They send a CC to the Narragensett Tribe, but no heads up to Charlestown.

Barry Schiller for RIPTA Riders, generally in support. Barry was a long time activist of the RI Sierra Club. We suspect that although he reviewed the proposal, he wasn’t aware of the impacts in South County.

RIPTA January 22, 2016. In support, says there will be disruptions in some communities, but no mention of Charlestown.

Providence Mayor Elorza December 9, 2015. In support. No mention of South County.

Providence Foundation February 3, 2016. In support. No mention of South County.

Mayors of Pawtucket and Central Falls February 4, 2016. In favor of the now selected alternative, no mention of South County.

What these comments tell us is that the draft EIS didn’t make the impacts to South County at all clear. Now that they are clear, would these same reviewers still have little or nothing to say about the “Old Saybrook to Kenyon Bypass”? This lack of clarity and specificity in the Draft EIS is one more reason why there should be an extension of the comment period on the Final EIS from January 31 to April 1, 2017.

Agencies such as Statewide Planning and RI DEM; stakeholders such as The Nature Conservancy, Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association, Westerly and Charlestown Land Trusts; The Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission; RI DEM Division of Agriculture; and Faculty at URI and other universities are the usual reviewers for a plan with this extreme level of impacts. Most of these impacts can’t be mitigated, so to put these off to Tier 2 when the route has been approved and the topic is mitigation is not wise. Many of the staff in the groups mentioned above are taking vacation for much of this comment period so the effective comment period will only be two weeks without an extension.

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