Solar project poses threat to Niantic River

Save the River Save the Hills (STRSTH) has recently discovered that the 55,000 solar-panel project in Waterford is proposed to be on 93 acres in a currently forested area between two tributaries − Oil Mill Brook and Stony Brook − to the Niantic River, not at the original site of the old Waterford Airport or the landfill. While we are a strong supporter of renewable solar energy, we feel that this site off Old Mill Road in Waterford is an inappropriate place to install it.

Waterford has spent taxpayers money to study the tributaries to the Niantic River and to create plans to protect the water quality of this estuary. In 2009, the town paid for the creation of The Stony Brook Watershed Management Plan. In 2006, the state of Connecticut, with the help of the four towns in the watershed and some Clean Water Act federal monies, produced the Niantic River Watershed Protection Plan. Both documents contain guidelines and recommendations to reduce stormwater runoff, the number one cause of pollution in the Niantic River. The proposed plans supporting the petition for the solar installation ignore these two plans.

STRSTH has officially requested to be an intervener in the solar company’s Petition for a Declaratory Ruling from the Connecticut Siting Counsel to start the work on the installation this fall without a public hearing or environmental review. We have hired a professional engineer to review the plans of the proposed installation and have confirmed our fears that the company proposing the solar project has not learned from the devastating results from the installation they created on Walnut Hill Road in East Lyme. (In 2014, the East Lyme site discharged silt and destroyed area wetlands on another tributary to the Niantic River. There is currently a lawsuit from downstream property owners against the same company.) The Waterford plans do not have sufficient stormwater mitigation built into the construction or the final product. STRSTH has worked too hard for too long on water quality in the Niantic River to allow it to be potentially destroyed by stormwater runoff from this proposed solar farm.

It makes no sense to deforest an area and degrade water quality in the Niantic River to provide solar energy. We have been fighting for 15 years to keep development from happening in the Oswegatchie Hills which overlook the Niantic River, so that the ecosystem of the river won’t be destroyed. This solar installation, as proposed, could do the same damage as developing the Hills, especially given the track record of the company in East Lyme.

Save the River Save the Hills is for solar energy, but not at the expense of water quality. This should not be a trade-off. The town and the state should find an area that creates a win for everyone. #SMARTSOLAR

Fred Grimsey is president of Save the River Save the Hills and Deb Moshier Dunn the vice president.



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