Warren’s Town Council president wants answers about a plan to build a $20.5 million pipeline connecting the East Bay to the Pawtucket water supply, and if it would harm Warren.
Last week, Bristol County Water Authority board members met to talk about the pipeline, which they said is needed to provide a secondary supply of water to Barrington, Warren and Bristol. Paid for by a combination of state, local and East Providence funds, BCWA ratepayers would be responsible for picking up about a quarter of the cost; the authority hopes to hold a referendum on the matter during next year’s regular election.
Though BCWA officials say the pipeline is needed to give Bristol, Warren and Barrington a source other than its current main source, Providence water delivered via the Cross Bay Pipeline, building it would also allow the authority to separate itself from long-held requirements that it maintain two inferior water supplies just over the border in Massachusetts — ultimately, that would also spell the closure of the Warren treatment plant.
Apart from voter approval for the funds, the BCWA would seek to change enabling legislation requiring it to eventually separate itself from its requirements in Massachusetts.
“We need another source,” BCWA executive director Pamela Marchand said at a BCWA meeting earlier this year, when she first laid out the need for the pipeline.
However, Warren Town Council president Chris Stanley questioned the project this week, especially as to how it relates to Warren.
In an e-mail delivered to the Warren Times-Gazette on Thursday, he acknowledged that the Pawtucket pipeline could be a benefit to thousands of water customers. However, he said, he has concerns:
“While the overall project may prove fruitful for the BCWA, Barrington and Bristol, it may bring harm to the Town of Warren.”
He posed the following questions; they were also forwarded to Ms. Marchand by the Warren Times-Gazette:
1. Does the land surrounding the Kickemuit River cease to exist as a protected watershed even though it eventually flows into the Narragansett Bay?
2. Will the BCWA continue to own the land surrounding the Kickemuit River?
3. Will the BCWA continue to insure and maintain not only the land around the Kickemuit River but other property and structures such as the dam visible from Child Street and the fish ladder?
4. How does the abandonment of the Kickemuit River as a water resource impact the PILOT? (note: Payment in lieu of taxes).
5. Do covenants exist that prohibit the sale of BCWA property falling within the Town of Warren’s boarders to private developers? If so, are the agreement voided if the BCWA no longer draws drinking water from the Kickemuit River?
6. How does this new plan impact BCWA’s riparian rights relative to other water resources in Massachusetts such as the Shad factory?
Ms. Marchand responded several hours after being queried, and said the authority’s board needs more time to research the questions and provide correct answers. She said when they find answers, they will share them:
“The board has not had a chance to discuss any of these questions or what they actually intend to do,” she wrote. “We have been focused on the Pawtucket pipeline project feasibility analysis. The board needs to review the questions, many of which will need legal research, and respond the council.”
More about the project
* The $20.5 million cost would be paid by Bristol County (25 percent), East Providence (25 percent) and the State of Rhode Island (50 percent).
* If the pipeline were built the Warren treatment plant would cease to treat water; it is operating well below capacity as the Kickemuit River and upstream reservoirs in Massachusetts are considered secondary sources of water.
* Water from Pawtucket would be combined with Providence water at the Nayatt pump station in Barrington, which recently underwent major upgrades.
* The plan requires voter approval; BCWA officials hope to hold a referendum next year.
* The BCWA would purchase at least $1 million of water a year from Pawtucket.