ALT to host panel on local water resources

14oct16_ALT.jpgThe Aquidneck Land Trust will be hosting a panel on the challenges — and solutions — related to Aquidneck Island's water resources next week at Salve Regina University. The free, two-hour event will be held on Thursday, Oct. 23, at 6pm in the Young Building, 518 Bellevue Ave. Here's their description:

More than ever before our newspapers are filled with articles concerning beach closures, significant storm events, the impacts of climate change and sea level rise, and new water treatment facilities. What does all this mean to you and our children? Come hear the experts talk about various water resource issues, challenges and solutions on Aquidneck Island such as the state water quality regulations each city and town must follow, the efforts being taken to better understand water quality issues from the source - at our front doors - to the coastal waters, the new treatment facilities being brought online to address water quality issues, the green infrastructure projects being proposed, and coastal management issues as we being to address resiliency in the age of sea level rise.

Joe O’Conner, General Manager, Rhode Island Public Radio/RI’s NPR (Moderator)
Elizabeth Scott, Deputy Chief, RI Department of Environmental Management, Office of Water Resources
Julia Forgue, Director of Utilities, City of Newport
Topher Hamblett, Director of Advocacy and Policy, Save The Bay
David McLaughlin, Executive Director, Clean Ocean Access;
Arthur Gold, Professor and Chair of the Department of Natural Resource Sciences, University of Rhode Island
Charles B. Allott, Esq., Executive Director, Aquidneck Land Trust

You can RSVP with Jessica Pohl at or 401.849.2799 x 18

For more information, visit

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

02871, Localblogging, ALT, environment

Council to consider WTG replacement deal

wtg_file.jpgNext Tuesday, the Town Council will hear a proposal to replace Portsmouth's ailing wind turbine in a package deal where a private developer would pick up the cost and pay back the Town's loan for the existing machine, according to an agenda item posted on the town web site.

Based on a Letter of Intent posted as backup, the private company, Wind Energy Development, LLC, of North Kingstown, would remove the existing device, pay the town approximately $2M, install a new 1.25 mW direct-drive unit, and assume operation and maintenance responsibility. In return, the Town would grant WED a 25-year lease on the turbine site for a nominal $1/year, levy no tax on the machine, and commit to purchase electricity from WED at the current retail rate from National Grid, with a guaranteed floor.

You can read all the additional details in the LOI, available on the Town site.

02871, localblgging, WTG, Town Council

ALT's 7th Annual 5K "Race for Open Space"

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 8.31.13 AM.pngOn November 1, you can run or walk for 5K (3.1 miles) along the Aquidneck Land Trust scenic Sakonnet Greenway Trail — maybe win a cash prize — and support the work of the ALT.

The 7th annual "Race for Open Space" is Aquidneck Island's premier partial trail race, and features a 5K cross-country loop starting from the Brown House at Glen Farm in Portsmouth.

The $20 entry fee supports the operations of the ALT and maintenance of the nature trail, the largest on Aquidneck Island.

Everyone is welcome, whether you're a serious runner (based on last year's results, you'd better be clocking 19-minute times if you're after the $100 prize) or you just want to enjoy a family walk along this beautiful trail (leashed dogs and strollers can participate in the walking category).

Visit ALT for more info and registration link.

Full disclosure: Written from a press release.

02871, Localblogging, ALT

Portsmouth water main flushing next week

The Portsmouth Water and Fire District will be flushing water mains in the north end of town next week from 8pm to 4am, according to a schedule they announced today:

  • Oct 7: Willow Lane and Sprague Street, Bristol Ferry Road to Camara Drive and Mitchell Road, and side streets
  • Oct 8: Bristol Ferry Road from Cherokee Drive to Bayview Avenue, Boyds Lane to East Main Road and side streets. East Main Road from Sprague Street and Child Street to Boyds Lane and side streets, including Viking Drive area
  • Oct 9: Island Park and Hummocks Point areas
  • Oct 14: Sprague Street to Freeborn Street, Turnpike Avenue and side streets; West Main Road from Statue Way to Sprague Street and side streets
  • Oct 15: East Main Road from Child Street to Clements and Aquidneck Place and side streets to Sakonnet River. Also Common Fence Point
  • Oct 16: Common Fence Point

The PWFD goes on to advise customers:

Discoloration of the water is expected during and after the flushing. Flushing in one area may create discolored water in other areas. Customers are advised to avoid washing clothes and those with hot water tanks are advised to avoid drawing hot water during the flushing hours and until any discoloration has cleared. It is expected that the water will clear by midday after the flushing. Customers may also experience low water pressure during the flushing.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

02871, Localblogging, pwfd

Portsmouth scores coveted AAA bond rating

logo.pngFor the first time in history, Portsmouth, RI has achieved the highly acclaimed triple-A rating following a review by Standard & Poor's Rating Services on the Town's outstanding general obligation bonds and long-term rating, according to a news release distributed this afternoon by John Klimm, the Town Administrator.

In the release, Town Council President Jim Seveney said, "This is particularly rewarding given the financial challenges we have faced the last few years and is affirmation that the Town is moving in the right direction. The AAA rating reflects our absolute commitment to honor our fiduciary responsibility to our residents and taxpayers and is a reflection of the hard work of our Town and school leaders over the last two years."

S&P credit analyst Timothy Little is quoted as saying, "The stable outlook reflects our view that management will remain proactive and make the necessary adjustments to produce at least balanced operations as it has demonstrated while adding to available general fund reserves." Little goes on to say, "We do not expect to change the rating within the two-year outlook horizon."

"The basis for the rating upgrade was attributed in part to our strong management, financial policies, and our consistent ability to maintain balanced budgets while increasing our fund balance," Klimm said.

the AAA rating is the highest a community can receive, and reflects the Town's sound financial management, according to the release. Only a small percentage of communities throughout the United States have an AAA rating. Portsmouth becomes only the second RI community to obtain an AAA rating. In nearby Massachusetts, only 29 of the 351 communities have an AAA rating.

A Triple-A rating has a direct and positive impact on the Town's residents. Funds borrowed carry a much lower interest rate due to the AAA rating. Jim Lathrop, the Town's Finance Director, said, "This is Portsmouth's financial report card, and it is nothing but A's. It is gratifying to work for a community that takes its financial health seriously."

Editorial note: Written (with glee) from a press release.

02871, Localblogging, Town of Portsmouth, Town Council

Portsmouth seeks citizen input on revenue options

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 11.44.55 AM.pngAccording to a post on the town web site, Portsmouth is soliciting resident input on ideas for revenue sources to offset the town's extensive reliance on property taxes. Here's the lead in from the quick, four-question survey.

Portsmouth is a great place to live, but our FY15 budget (7/1/14 – 6/30/15) is funded 85% by property taxes. Most other RI municipalities are at 75%, with 25% coming from fee-for-service revenues. Clearly, other revenue sources need to be explored, such as charging increased (or new) fees for certain services.We need new revenue solutions, as well as continuing the cost cutting measures already started, to keep our economic future bright. 

How do user fees differ from a tax? There are two important distinctions. A fee approach provides residents an option to pay, or do without the service, while Increasing property taxes offers no option… lean times or good, you have to pay. Secondly, the cost of services are borne by the actual users, not subsidized by non-users.

This survey asks your opinion on some potential user fees under consideration.

If you have a few minutes, why not pop on over to the survey and offer your thoughts.

02871, Localblogging, Town of Portsmouth

DEM demands immediate action on Portsmouth landfill cap

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 10.12.50 AM.pngThe RI Dept. of Environmental Management has issued a response to a plea for more time from the company capping Portsmouth's former town dump, and while they have granted the request for a one-year extension, they stress that this is "final" and have required immediate action to complete the finished sections, according to documents released by DEM today.

In the letter to Arthur Palmer Enterprise, DEM Principal Environmental Scientist Mark Dennen advises APE that although they are granting the extension to the governing agreement, the Beneficial Use Determination Approval, DEM "feels it is necessary to add two conditions."

First, that there will be no further extensions "Upon its expiration on September 20, 2015, the BUDA will no longer be subject to renewal." Dennen notes that any additional request for an extension "will be considered a new application and subject to public notice and public hearing." (The significance of that sentence will not be lost on the APE team, who, like DEM, had to sit through many uncomfortable meetings at the Portsmouth Town Hall over the last few years.)

Second, DEM is requiring immediate work to bring the already completed sections of the site up to final condition with residential soil and grass cover. "Beginning on or before September 20, 2014 and ending November 30, 2014 APE shall cover and seed the eastern slope of the property that abuts residences in the area." This is a rebuke to APE, who had responded to DEM's prior request for immediate action with a proposal to begin the final cover work in six months.

Read the full DEM letter

In addition to the response, DEM also distributed a letter written by the president of the Portsmouth Concerned Citizens, Larry Fitzmorris, and a letter and petition with 58 signatures from former Town Council president Joe Robicheau. Both complain of alleged health risks and other impacts on the neighborhood and urge the DEM to reject the extension.

DEM responded with a by-now familiar correction of several misstatements which you can read here.

Editorial note: Sure seems like someone thinks they can wring another election cycle's worth of Island Park anger out of this issue. I, personally, remain unconvinced. But in the interests of full disclosure, long time readers may recall that Mr. Robicheau and I had a significant disagreement about the responsibilities of the Town in communicating with residents of our uniquely fragile neighborhood in the runup to superstorm Sandy.

02871, Localblogging, Landfill capping, landfill

DA drops criminal charges against Brayton blockaders

Bristol County DA Sam Sutter holds a copy of Bill McKibben's article. Photo credit: Peter Bowden.

In one of the most delightfully unexpected twists in a US courtroom since Miracle on 34th Street, the Bristol County District Attorney, Sam Sutter, dropped criminal charges against two men who had used a lobster boat to block a coal shipment at the Brayton Point power station and promised to join them at the People's Climate March in New York in two weeks.

"Political leadership on this issue has been gravely lacking," Sutter said, in video taken at the press conference this morning outside the Fall River District Court where he announced the deal which dropped the criminal charges in favor of civil infractions with restitution to the towns affected. Sutter went on to say that he was pleased to have reached an agreement that "symbolizes our commitment at the Bristol County District Attorney's office to take a leadership role on this issue."

"I certainly will be in New York in two weeks," he said. He showed the assembled media a copy of Rolling Stone featuring an article by climate activist Bill McKibben urging people to attend the People's Climate March on September 21.

This afternoon, the Better Future Project, which had been organizing support for the two climate activists through the web site Lobster Boat, sent a release to media with the background and responses from the two men.

In May 2013, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara used a small white lobster boat, the Henry David T, to block a shipment of 40,000 tons of coal to the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, MA, the largest coal plant in New England. They were charged with conspiracy, disturbing the peace and motor vessel violations and faced up to several years in jail.

Ken and Jay had sought to become the first American climate activists to use a “necessity defense”, arguing that the blockade was necessary in light of the imminent threat of climate change. They had planned to call former NASA climatologist James Hansen and environmentalist Bill McKibben to the stand as expert witnesses.

“The truth is that taking these sorts of actions is necessary in light of the drastic news that continues to be described by the science. This decision by the District Attorney is an admission that the political and economic system isn’t taking the climate crisis seriously, and that it falls to ordinary citizens, especially people of faith, to stand up and take action to avert catastrophe,” said Jay O'Hara, a Quaker.

“By dropping the criminal charges against us and stating that ‘political leadership on this [climate] issue has been gravely lacking,’ DA Sutter in effect accepted our necessity defense. The climate crisis is so terrible and so fast that it overwhelms ordinary political avenues. Even now, as the West Antarctic ice shelf is in unstoppable collapse, the Brayton Point plant is increasing the amount of coal it burns. Protest works, indeed protest maybe the only thing that can save us,” said Ken Ward.

Ken and Jay’s blockade sparked a summer of action at the Brayton Point, including the arrest of 44 people at the gates of the plant in July 2013. Last fall, the owners announced the closure of Brayton Point in 2017.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

02871, Localblogging, climate change, environment

Portsmouth water exceeds TTHM standard

Water supplied to Portsmouth residents has exceeded the federal EPA standard for trihalomethanes (TTHMs) for the past year, according to a statement released to media today by the Portsmouth Water and Fire District (PWFD). The EPA standard is 80 parts per billion (ppb) for an annual running average, and the Portsmouth water came in at 89.2 ppb.

TTHMs, according to the EPA web site, are "a group of four chemicals that are formed along with other disinfection byproducts when chlorine or other disinfectants used to control microbial contaminants in drinking water react with naturally occurring organic and inorganic matter in water."

According to PWFD, the level does not constitute an emergency and no action by customers is required, but it has triggered a notification requirement. PWFD customers will receive notice by mail from the district within the next month.

The new water treatment plant under construction on West Main Road will incorporate advanced processes to ensure compliance with drinking water standards, the PWFD said, and is scheduled to become operational before the end of the year.

Read more about TTHMs on the EPA site, or download the full press release here.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

02871, Localblogging, pwfd