Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association Statement on Railroad Plan

On December 23, The Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association released the following statement about the Federal Railroad Administration Plan to create new rail lines in Charlestown and other affected towns.

“The Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association (WPWA) is reviewing the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and gathering facts to understand the potential impacts of this proposed re-routing of train rail lines through the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed in RI and CT. This FEIS is a multi-state planning document that is thousands of pages long and will take a lot of time for WPWA to carefully review.

WPWA recognizes the potential environmental and economic benefits of improving and expanding high speed rail service. However, the proposed route causes us serious concern about the potential for negative impacts to habitat, surface and ground water, as well as public, private and conservation lands.

Comprehensive consideration at a high level was given to selecting this route from three route alternatives. RI and CT were consulted and did comment on the route selection process in what is known as the Tier 1 assessment phase that culminated in the recently published FEIS. One or more of these alternatives would have ended Acela service to TF Green airport, URI/Kingston, and the metro Providence area. One alternative even had the train bisecting the Scituate reservoir!

Absent from the Tier 1 Assessment is ANY citation that the rivers proposed to be traversed are afforded protection from development by WPWA’s ongoing Wild and Scenic study sponsored by the National Park Service. This was likely an oversight based on the timing of the FEIS’s development and the passage of the Wood Pawcatuck Protection Act in December 2014. The yet to be funded, but federally mandated Tier 2 review process will address this oversight and is the appropriate point in the process in which the affected towns, landowners, and conservation organizations will be heavily consulted.

You can count on WPWA with its legal standing granted by the RI legislature to participate in the review and comment that occurs as part of Tier 2, if that phase eventually receives funding. During that process WPWA will receive, carefully review, and thoughtfully comment on the more route- and site-specific information that will be provided by the Federal Railroad Commission. Our comments will expand upon those already submitted by the US Environmental Protection Agency related to their serious concerns specifically related to surface, aquifer and drinking water.

The WPWA has committed to partnering with other conservation organizations that operate on a watershed-wide basis like the RI & CT Nature Conservancy. Together we will work with the state’s Congressional delegation to defend the natural and human resources that may be affected. We encourage our neighbors and community partners to engage in the public process, and to assist in determining acceptable alternatives to the proposed route.”

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