Residents mobilize to oppose water authority

Residents mobilize to oppose water authority

SCITUATE – Town residents are working together to oppose two bills that would authorize the creation of a tax-exempt regional water board.

Dozens of residents showed up to a Corporations Committee hearing at the Statehouse on May 2 with Rep. Robert Quattrocchi, of District 41 serving Scituate and Cranston, by their side.

At the hearing, Rep. Slater, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, and attorney Jack Partridge spoke in favor of the legislation.

Advocates for the bill argued that its passage was necessary to alleviate the burden placed on the Providence Water Supply Board.

“Providence has been subsidizing the water rates for 60 percent of the state and it’s unfair,” Elorza said.

Opponents suggested the bill was a vehicle to provide Providence with additional funding.

“I’d like to call this what it is and that’s a bailout of Providence,” said Quattrocchi.

Scituate Town Council member Scott Amaral said he’s proud of how the town has come together to oppose the legislation.

“We’ve progressed forward really well,” Amaral said. “It was independents, Republicans, Democrats, all working together.”

The councilman added that the town plans to mobilize to oppose a Senate version of the bill as well.

The House bill, “an act relating to waters and navigation – The Rhode Island Cooperative Water Authority,” was introduced to the General Assembly by Rep. Scott Slater in April and has been held for further study. A companion bill has been presented to the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary, sponsored by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin.

Both bills would create a cooperative water authority to coordinate the management of water supply systems throughout the state. The authority would have the ability to purchase, sell, or lease any property of a water supply system.

The legislation does not permit the authority to sell any water system to a private corporate entity.

The bills also create a cooperative water authority board made up of residents appointed by the mayors of Providence, Cranston, Johnston, and North Providence.

Scituate, however, is not mentioned in the proposed legislation or given a seat on the cooperative water supply authority board.

The Scituate Reservoir is the largest fresh water body in Rhode Island and its water serves approximately 60 percent of the state’s residents.

Before attending the May 2 public hearing at the Statehouse, Scituate held a special Town Council meeting on April 24 to pass a resolution that would state the town’s opposition to the bill.

The resolution appointed Town Council President John Mahoney and Vice President Michael Payette to act on behalf of the Town Council to oppose passage of the bill.

Also prior to the May 2 hearing, Rep. Quattrocchi created an online petition opposing the bill, which gathered more than 900 signatures.

He has created a second petition opposing the companion Senate bill, which had fewer than 100 signatures at press time.