Pawtuxet River Authority suing state over dam removal

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Pawtuxet River Authority is suing the state over the Pawtuxet Village Dam at the mouth of the river.

Providence bought the land on the river along with the dam some 140 years ago. Then in 1915 the general assembly passed what's call the 1915 Act, creating the Situate Reservoir for the city's water supply.

One line in that law required Providence to build and maintain a replacement of the Pawtuxet Village Dam. And it did. But then the city handed the dam over to the Pawtuxet River Authority back in 2008.

Now the Pawtuxet River Authority wants to demolish the dam for fish migration. In its lawsuit filed earlier this month, the Authority claims the state has failed to show what public interest the dam would serve.

Chris D"Ovidio is the Authority's attorney. "So we say in this case, build and maintain a dam for what? What legitimate public purpose is furthered or achieved by requiring the owner of this dam to maintain this dam," he says.

D'Ovidio says there's another legal problem: a 1972 law that gives the Pawtuxet River Authority clearance to do what it needs to restore the river, conflicts with the 1915 law requiring the dam.

He says there's legislation being crafted that would allow the dam to be demolished.

The Pawtuxet River Authority wants to remove the dam so fish, such as blueback herring and Atlantic shad, can migrate up the river to spawn.

D'Ovidio says there's a window based on funding and environmental concerns that allows construction to run from July to October. Now it's a wait and see to whether the courts or the state house chime in before the construction windown closes.

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