By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
BURRILLVILLE, R.I. — The out-of-state developer of the proposed Clear River Energy Center is calling it an “important step forward” that the public comment period has opened for one of the project’s remaining permits.
On June 4, the Army Corps of Engineers began accepting comments for a permit that would allow damage to wetlands within the project’s woodland site in Rhode Island’s northwest corner. The primary cause of the harm would be the construction of a temporary access road needed during construction of the fossil-fuel facility, followed by altering a stream for a new power line, filling of wetlands to construct buildings and roads, and clearing of trees within the 67-acre site. In all, 15.38 acres of wetlands would be impaired either temporarily or permanently by the project.
“The project has been designed to avoid and minimize impacts to aquatic resources while bolstering the existing electrical infrastructure in the Rhode Island and New England region,” according to the Army Corps’ public notice.
The developer, Chicago-based Invenergy Thermal Development LLC, is mitigating the damage by preserving a 148-acre parcel called Sweet Hill Farm and two parcels equaling 150 acres known as the Alles property on Round Top Road.
Opponents of the natural-gas/diesel-fuel facility say environmental factors, such as wetland damage, and alternative sites weren’t fully evaluated because of the lack of an environmental impact statement. Save The Bay argues that the power plant poses risks to the health of Narragansett Bay. Other environmental groups and experts testified before the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) that the project disrupts a sensitive regional wildlife corridor and that the application failed to adequately consider alternative locations.
Public comment on the wetland application is open until July 3. Statements can be e-mailed to Alex Kostra at firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742.
The $1 billion project also requires a license from the EFSB. The nearly four-year application saga is expected to wrap up with open deliberation sessions scheduled for June 20, 21, and 25. The meetings are open to the public but no comments will be allowed.
On May 8, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management issued preliminary approval for an air-pollution permit. The public can send comments by e-mail and letters until July 15 at 4 p.m. A public hearing will be held for the air permit on June 19..