Comments Submitted: Albion Dam Retrofit Permit Application

Comments Submitted: Application to Alter Freshwater Wetlands, Albion Dam Retrofit 

As part of Save The Bay’s advocacy efforts, our team routinely reviews and submits comments on applications pending before the Department of Environmental Management and the Coastal Resources Management Council concerning issues related to water quality, wetlands and coastal resources. Save The Bay submitted the comments highlighted below to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management on Tuesday, June 16, 2020.


The Albion Dam on the Blackstone River in Cumberland, R.I.
New England Hydropower has filed an application to retrofit the Albion Dam to produce electricity.

The Application:

New England Hydropower filed an application to retrofit the Albion Dam to produce electricity. It proposes the construction of a temporary access road and a 20-foot-wide permanent access road along the Blackstone River that would destroy trees, reduce recreational opportunities, and could affect water quality. A new 51-foot-long, 45.75-foot-wide water intake canal and a new 50-foot-long, 24-foot-wide and 18-foot-high concrete powerhouse is also proposed, which would impact the river and features along the bank.

Site Location and Habitat:

The proposed project site is along the Blackstone River in Cumberland, Rhode Island. A small swamp with trees, shrubs and woodland flowering plants is located next to the riverbank, and the proposed project would fill a part of this forested wetlands as well as disturb the physical features of the riverbank wetland.

The site was acquired by the State of Rhode Island in 1990 with the use of bond funds, and  “conservation” is designated as site’s primary use. The site also falls within a mapped Natural Heritage Area, or an area where rare and uncommon species have been identified or historically present.

Areas of Concern/Comments:

Albion Dam from above
The banks of the Blackstone at Albion Dam provide habitat to numerous species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.
  • Loss of wildlife habitat: The birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians that use the riverbank where the access road is proposed would need to find new habitat.
  • Loss of wildlife habitat: The loss of overhanging trees that shade and cool the waters of the Blackstone would reduce habitat for fish and other aquatic species.
  • Impairment of river connectivity: The 30-year life of the permit would delay efforts to remove dams in the Blackstone River watershed. The proposed project does not include a way for fish, eels, or other aquatic species to move upstream.
  • Water quality: Naturally-vegetated forest along the banks of the Blackstone help to slow down stormwater and take up nutrients—nitrogen and phosphorus—and other contaminants before they reach the Blackstone. Disruption to this vegetation could result in impairments to water quality.
  • Loss of public access for fishing, hiking, photography, nature study, birdwatching and other wildlife viewing.
  • Loss of aesthetics along the bank of the Blackstone.

Laws and Regulations Cited:

  • R.I. Gen. Laws § 2-1-18 and 2-1-19
  • Rules and Regulations Governing the Administration and Enforcement of the Freshwater Wetlands Act

Read the Complete Comments Here

*Please note:  Be sure to access the Johnson & Wales University Harborside Campus through the main entrance on Harborside Blvd. Your GPS may suggest taking Ernest Street to JWU’s Shipyard Street entrance, but that route requires a key card for entry.  

From Route I-95 North or South, take Exit 18 (Thurbers Avenue). Head downhill on Thurbers Avenue to US Route 1A (Allens Avenue). Turn right onto Allens Ave. Continue southbound on Allens Ave. into Cranston, where Allens Ave. becomes Narragansett Blvd. Turn left onto Harborside Blvd. at the traffic light by the Shell gas station. Follow Harborside Blvd. through the Johnson & Wales Harborside Campus. At the end of Harborside Blvd., turn right onto Save The Bay Drive. Save The Bay Drive becomes a circular, one-way roadway as you approach the Bay Center. Parking is available in four guest lots after you pass the main building. Enter the building through the main entrance.