Corridor Expansion and Final Environmental Impact Statement
The Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association (WPWA) is
reviewing the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and gathering
facts to understand the potential impacts of this proposed re-routing of
train rail lines through the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed in RI and CT.
This FEIS is a multi-state planning document that is thousands of pages
long and will take a lot of time for WPWA to carefully review.
WPWA recognizes the potential environmental and economic
benefits of improving and expanding high speed rail service. However, the
proposed route causes us serious concern about the potential for negative
impacts to habitat, surface and ground water, as well as public, private
and conservation lands.
Comprehensive consideration at a high level was given to
selecting this route from three route alternatives. RI and CT were
consulted and did comment on the route selection process in what is known
as the Tier 1 assessment phase that culminated in the recently published
FEIS. One or more of these alternatives would have ended Acela
service to TF Green airport, URI/Kingston, and the metro Providence area.
One alternative even had the train bisecting the Scituate reservoir!
Absent from the Tier 1 Assessment is ANY citation that the
rivers proposed to be traversed are afforded protection from development
by WPWA’s ongoing Wild and Scenic study sponsored by the National Park
Service. This was likely an oversight based on the timing of the
FEIS’s development and the passage of the Wood Pawcatuck Protection Act
in December 2014. The yet to be funded, but federally mandated Tier
2 review process will address this oversight and is the appropriate point
in the process in which the affected towns, landowners, and conservation
organizations will be heavily consulted.
You can count on WPWA with its legal standing granted by
the RI legislature to participate in the review and comment that occurs
as part of Tier 2, if that phase eventually receives funding.
During that process WPWA will receive, carefully review, and thoughtfully
comment on the more route- and site-specific information that will be
provided by the Federal Railroad Commission. Our comments will expand
upon those already submitted by the US Environmental Protection Agency
related to their serious concerns specifically related to surface,
aquifer and drinking water.
The WPWA has committed to partnering with other
conservation organizations that operate on a watershed-wide basis like
the RI & CT Nature Conservancy. Together we will work with the
state’s Congressional delegation to defend the natural and human
resources that may be affected. We encourage our neighbors and community
partners to engage in the public process, and to assist in determining
acceptable alternatives to the proposed route.