Point Club attacks again without merit

To the editor:

To the Little Compton Town Council …

I am writing on behalf of the Sakonnet Point Club to provide the council with background and context and to address the comments submitted to you by Mary W. “Mimi” Johnson Karlsson.

It is instructive to review the record of Ms. Johnson’s opposition to the Point Club. In her previous attempts to argue against the club before the Town Council, she resorted to ad hominem attacks on the councilors, i.e., “Queen Jane and her slippery court of political hacks and toadies” and made dire predictions of the harbor area being changed forever if the club were built. (See attached Sakonnet Times letter to the editor, Nov. 18, 1999)

Ms. Johnson predicted that the harbor neighborhood would suffer the following fates if the Point Club became reality: a round-the-clock “din” from a diesel motor running the club’s desalinization system, the constant sound of the warning signal of a fork lift in operation, traffic back-ups to “the Stone House [on] most days in season”, destruction of the view and a stench from the “sewage treatment plant.”

How does the reality of more than four years of operation compare with Ms. Johnson’s predictions?

  • The Sakonnet Point Club has not been a noise polluter to the harbor neighborhood.
  • Traffic congestion, as described by Ms. Johnson, has not materialized, even on the busiest summer day.
  • The view from the Point is preserved and remains one of the best in the region, if not the country. Importantly, the construction of the club and the overall cleanup of the two lots involved reversed and ended an almost two decade long decline and decay of the former Foc’s’le property.
  • The club’s septic system operates efficiently and without the all-encompassing “stench” forecast by Ms. Johnson. The system is monitored on a continuous basis and reports are communicated to DEM as required by the Club’s ISDS permit.

Ms. Johnson also speculated that if the club’s desalinization system’s outflow were directed into the Sakonnet River, the lobster population at the Point would be wiped out.

Returning to the recent past, the Council may recall that during the winter of 2010/2011, the club’s outflow pipe, which discharged into the Sakonnet River, was severely damaged. A repair program was implemented to restore the integrity of the pipe. However, the outflow pipe was severely damaged again in August 2011 during Tropical Storm Irene. Given the fact that the outflow pipe would most likely be damaged again if replaced in the river location, the club engaged engineers and scientists to work in cooperation with State of Rhode Island regulators to develop a plan that would meet health requirements and protect aquatic life. The discharge into the harbor will be identical to that which was discharging under the club’s current permit into the Sakonnet River.

Joseph B. Habererek, PE, principal sanitaryeEngineer, DEM made the following statements:

Based on our review and coordination with DEM Shellfish Water Quality Monitoring Program, it has been determined that the proposed discharge will not cause any adverse impacts to human health as it relates to the consumption of aquatic organisms…” and

“Based on DEM Marine Fisheries Section review … it was determined that there would not be any measureable adverse impacts to habitat if the outfall [was] relocated to the proposed location in the Sakonnet Harbor.”

We worked together with the state to develop the course of analysis, testing and supporting documentation that resulted in a plan that protects human health; does not negatively impact marine habitat; is sensitive to navigation and the livelihoods of our neighbors in the harbor community; and reduces the exposure of the outflow pipe to wave action and storm surge.

In addition, a report prepared by ASA Science of South Kingston puts the amount of copper that will be introduced to the Harbor by the Club’s desalinization outflow pipe in perspective and in layman’s terms. The ASA report concludes that the average discharge of copper per day from the club’s desalinization outflow will be negligible when compared to the source of copper leaching into Sakonnet Harbor waters from the bottom paints of the 100+ boats in the harbor during recreational boating season. Specifically, the club’s annualized daily discharge of copper, as measured and reported to DEM, will be the equivalent of the copper leaching from ¼ of the bottom of a single full sized recreational boat.

Over the years, Ms. Johnson has proven herself to be an unreliable source of information. The passage of time has revealed her claims and dire predictions to not be true. Yet, she continues to bring tired arguments that have been considered and rejected in the past by State of Rhode Island regulators and supports her claims with studies that are over 30 years old. Ms. Johnson’s arguments and contentions have been: debunked by scientific evidence, which is supported by current, comprehensive testing, modeling, field studies and analysis; countered by more than four years of actual Sakonnet Point Club operational data, monitored regularly by DEM; and proven false by our own sense of sight, smell and hearing.

Your decision in this matter is clear-cut. Either you vote to accept the unequivocal conclusions of the state scientists and engineers, or you vote to concur with Ms. Johnson’s recommendation that the Town Council “demand the regulators [to] require” more tests.

The Sakonnet Point Club’s original objectives were to clean up and preserve two Sakonnet Point lots after securing them under local ownership and to create a place of value for the community while complying with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and the Harbor Commission’s Master Plan by increasing access to Sakonnet Harbor. Over the past 14 years, the record clearly demonstrates that the Point Club has realized those objectives, especially, increasing the number of Little Compton residents in the membership ranks. The club continues to maintain its strong commitment to being a responsible member of the community, a good neighbor, a significant state and local taxpayer, and an important employer.

Chris Burns

President, Sakonnet Point Club

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