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State of Rhode Island General Assembly
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Sen. Raptakis renews push for legislation to protect Johnson’s Pond
Senator says reckless actions by private owners have led to manipulating water level; Asks for oversight by DEM, Town of Coventry
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) introduced legislation to protect a valuable environmental asset in the Kent County region by seeking to establish state dam management oversight for Johnson’s Pond in the event of storm emergencies.
According to Senator Raptakis, Johnson’s Pond is a major ecological and recreational resource, the hydrology of which has had major impacts on communities and property owners throughout the Kent County region. “Johnson’s Pond is a regulated wetland that exists in part on private property, just like most of the other wetlands that RIDEM regulates. In the past, RIDEM and the Coventry Emergency Management Agency have, through trained meteorologists, assisted in guiding the water levels of the pond at times of significant anticipated events. Johnson’s Pond is too important and impactful a resource to permit important decisions in time of emergency to be made by untrained laypeople,” he said.
He continued, “This is the due and proper function of government. The Johnson’s Pond Association, along with the town of Coventry, requested the assistance of the Rhode Island General Assembly to pass legislation aimed at protecting an important state water asset and its vibrant ecosystem. Passing this bill would help to mitigate against purposeful flooding of the Pawtuxet River which impacts at minimum five communities and approximately 240,000 residents and preserve access to Johnson’s Pond for the 600 homeowners living on or in close proximity to the pond.”
Last August, the pond’s owner, Soscia Holdings LLC, drained the pond to the point where docks were over little more than mud and homeowners reported dying fish and turtles. They then unleashed water during a tropical storm a month later, creating the potential for causing flooding down river. For the first time last year, residents of the pond reported the presence of toxic blue-green algae, which had never been present there before Soscia started dramatically altering water levels.
“Soscia Holdings is behaving like environmental terrorists, taking drastic actions to manipulate water levels as a means of punishing residents who dare to complain about the company’s actions,” said Senator Raptakis. “They’ve sought to limit residents’ access to the area by putting up gates, called the police to try to stop people from enjoying the pond, filed frivolous suits and even threatened to turn the pond into a solar panel farm. There’s not a wetlands area this company wouldn’t trash if it meant putting money in their pockets.”
Senator Raptakis has introduced three bills to protect Johnson’s Pond:
would create a DEM environmental study for the public benefit and would help the agency exercise its enforcement options to protect wetland in and around Johnson’s Pond.
would give DEM the authority to restore water levels in the pond.
would grant the Town of Coventry the right to regulate water levels and flow rate in Johnson Pond between April 1 and November 1. The bill was heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 1.
Raptakis said this was not only a matter of residential property rights but a major environmental concern that he believes DEM should properly investigate. He stated that it's a health issue now that the water level has dropped so much in the last week because the water level causes problems with well water. Senator Raptakis also pointed out that Big River in West Greenwich, Mapleroot Pond and Reynolds Pond, both in Coventry, all have extremely low water levels now due to the effects of the situation at Johnson’s Pond.
For more information, contact:
Legislative Press Bureau
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
Lt. Governor's Office
Secretary of State
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