Invenergy Releases Plan to Withdraw Water from Center of Indian Cedar Swamp in Charlestown

Invenergy Thermal Development LLC is the company that seeks to build a 1000 Megawatt Power Plant fueled by gas and diesel oil in Burrillville. The site of the power plant in Burrillville would require clearing hundreds of acres of forest contiguous with state conservation areas like George Washington Park, Pulaski Park, Buck Hill Management Area, and more. These protected lands in Rhode Island together with adjoining conservation lands in Connecticut and Massachusetts total tens of thousands of acres. The wildlife impacts of fragmenting this forest habitat are opposed by The Nature Conservancy, Rhode Island Audubon, Save the Bay and many other conservation organizations.

Charlestown was already connected to Burrillville through the North South Trail, a hiking trail, and a corridor of open space that extends from the ocean in Charlestown to the Carolina Wildlife Management Area in Richmond to the Arcadia Management Area in Exeter and then follows a string of state parks and other conservation land to the Massachusetts border.

Invenergy now proposes to connect Charlestown and Burrillville with a caravan of tanker trucks carrying water from the Indian Cedar Swamp in Charlestown to cool the turbines of the power plant in Burrillville.

The conceptual site of the well system to cool the power plant is shown on the graphic below which was recently released by Invenergy. The area identified as “United Nuclear Plant Location” is now the Francis Carter Preserve. The large green dot is the conceptual location of the water withdrawal. This is the center of the Indian Cedar Swamp, an over 900 acre, pristine wetland. The land was previously a state wildlife management area. It was transferred to the Narragansett Indian Tribe as part of the Settlement Act in 1978. It was transferred with the restriction that it be “held in perpetuity for conservation purposes and shall not be improved or developed.”

Developing wells at the center of the cedar swamp, a pumping station, and some kind of access road will require significant alteration to the wetland. This is not a proposal that will go before the Town, but it will need to be approved by the Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB). The EFSB will hold a hearing in Charlestown on Tuesday, December 5 at the Charlestown Elementary School at 6PM.

We’ll have lots more about the proposal and the hearing between now and December 5.

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