PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CN) – The state-created Pawtuxet River Authority sued Rhode Island to stop it from interfering with plans to remove a masonry dam, to help native salmon spawn and reduce the frequency and intensity of floods on the lower river. The state created the agency in 1972 to restore the industrialized Pawtuxet River to its natural state.
The masonry dam was built as part of the General Assembly’s 1915 act, which authorized Providence to harness the Pawtuxet River, which flows through 12 communities and includes 64 ponds, 93 brooks and 7 tributaries, to create the Scituate Reservoir as a drinking supply for Providence and other cities.
The 1915 act called for the city to build the dam in Pawtuxet Village, near Providence, to “ensure that a specific flow and quantity of water shall flow in the River as may be necessary for the use by the specifically enumerated mill, factory and bleachery.”
The dam’s maintenance provision states, “Before said city of Providence diverts any of said waters for said water supply for said city, it shall build a masonry dam across the Pawtuxet River, in the village of Pawtuxet, on the same site and of the same height as the present dam there situated, and shall so maintain the same.”
The Pawtuxet River Authority acquired the dam from the city by warranty deed in 2008 and seeks an injunction to restrain the city from using the 1915 act’s provision for dam maintenance to interfere with the dam removal project.
“The dam project would serve a legitimate public purpose by providing for the upstream migration of native anadromous fish and thereby restoring the river to its former status as recreational asset,” according to the complaint in Kent County Court.
Anadromous fish are born and spawn in fresh water, but spend most of their lives in salt water.
The Pawtuxet River Authority is represented by Christopher D’Ovidio with Merolla & Accetturo of Warwick, R.I.