Public invited to weigh in on power plant’s impact through July 3

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BURRILLVILLE – The Army Corps of Engineers is now accepting public comment on Invenergy Thermal’s plan to construct temporary roads and buildings through forests and wetlands off of Wallum Lake Road to make way for a 1,000-megawatt gas-burning power plant dubbed the Clear River Energy Center.

The project will disturb a total of more than 15 acres of wetlands, either permanently or temporarily through the construction process.

The $1 billion facility, which would be located adjacent to the existing Algonquin Compressor Station, and would be used to “meet the long-term electric supply demand in the Rhode Island and New England region.”

“The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact of the proposed activity on the public interest,” stated the public notice, issued by the Army Corp this week. “The Corps will consider all comments received to determine whether to issue, modify, condition or deny a permit for this proposal.”

“To make this decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above.”

CREC would be located on a 67-acre site situated amid a 26.6 square mile forest that stretches across three states. The access road would run directly through an area of swamp wetlands, and the notice from the Army Corp details the project’s potential to alter a stream for a new power line, fill wetlands and clear trees.

To mitigate the damage, the power developer plans to preserve a 150-acre parcel beside the Round Top Fishing Area known as the Alles property, as wells a Sweet Hill Farm, 148-acres of land between Lapham Pond and Spring Lake.

“It is our preliminary determination that the proposed activity for which authorization is being sought is designed, situated or will be operated/used in such a manner that it is not likely to adversely affect a listed species or their critical habitat,” states the document issues by the Army Corp this week.

Critics of the have stated that a full environmental impact study of the project was never completed, and a biological inventory conducted by Invenergy in 2017 documented the presence of 47 “Species of Greatest Conservation Need,” including 17 state-listed rare species.

Work may also disturb properties listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic places, according to the 18-page notice, which includes maps of the Chicago-based company’s plans.

The notice also notes that “any person may request, in writing, within the comment period… that a public hearing be held to consider the application.”

“The Corps holds public hearing for the purpose of obtaining public comments when that is the best means for understanding a wide variety of concerns from a diverse segment of the public,” the document states.

The Energy Facility Siting Board, a three-member, state-appointed board that has authority over approval of such projects, is expected to issue their decision on the proposal in June. The EFSB first received the application from Invenergy in 2015, and will begin public deliberations on Thursday, June 20. 

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management is also accepting comments on a draft air permit issued in May, through July 15.

Public comment on the wetland application can be e-mailed to Alex Kostra at alexander.a.kostra@usace.army.mil or mailed to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742. Statements will be accepted through July 3.

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