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Guest MINDSETTER ™ Berwick: Solving Problems Using Public and Private Relationships

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Governor Raimondo recently signed legislation mandating that all cesspools in Rhode Island be upgraded to reduce pollution problems in our coastal waters and riverside areas.  These upgrades would cost each cesspool owner between $7,000.00 and $18,000.00. In addition,she is also looking for ways to involve the public and private sectors in economic development projects. There is a way to solve Rhode Island’s pollution problems by having the state of Rhode Island, the federal government and local energy companies form a public/private partnership.  As a result of this partnership, the cost to each Rhode Island cesspool owner could be reduced to $500.00 per year for ten years.  

Hurricane Sandy proved that a category 1 hurricane with a modest storm surge could cause horrendous damage.  Imagine if a hurricane of this type came directly down Narragansett Bay and collided with the hurricane barrier.  A 10 to 12 foot wall of water would inundate the bay shorelines.  Thousands of homes and businesses would be destroyed and the pollution caused by the destruction of the numerous above ground energy storage facilities in the bay area would be devastating. 

There is a way to reduce the damaging effects of hurricane winds and storm surges while reducing the damaging effects of rising sea levels.  The Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC) has proven that deep underground, constructed hard rock caverns can be economically built in the Rhode Island area.  The pumping facility for their combined sewer overflow (CSO) program is located in a constructed hard rock cavern.   Because construction of this cavern was done by the "drill and blast" method, the cost to construct this 120 foot x 68 foot x 68 foot deep underground hard rock cavern was relatively low.  

Constructed caverns of this type could contain storage tanks for energy products that are now stored above ground in the Narragansett Bay area.

I am advocating that a series of these deep underground caverns be built at Quonset Point and used to store all energy products now stored above ground along the shorelines of Narragansett Bay and Mount Hope Bay   Only two acres of land at Quonset would be needed for the entrance to this underground cavern complex which would have unlimited storage capacity.  First, a 1000 foot long, 20 foot diameter, diagonal tunnel would be drilled to reach bed rock at the 300 foot level.  Once the first cavern is constructed, several caverns could be built at the same time.   Construction time for this cavern complex would be very short. 

After all energy products are stored safely underground at Quonset Point, all the above ground storage facilities could be dismantled and the shoreline areas redeveloped in a pristine and environmentally correct manner. All cesspools could be upgraded at this time.  The Narragansett and Mount Hope Bay shorelines would have new parks, bike paths, wet land wildlife preserves, marinas, docking facilities for cruise ships, resort hotels, condominiums and a myriad of other new commercial and environmental developments. 

The rock debris created building these hard rock caverns would be used to build breakwaters and other barriers along Rhode Island’s vulnerable shorelines.  These breakwaters and barriers would be designed to reduce the damaging effects of hurricane winds, storm surges and rising sea levels.  Rhode Island’s shorelines would become safe, clean, and protected from wind, storm surges, terrorist’s attacks and rising sea level damage.

The state of Rhode Island, the federal government and private energy companies would share the costs and benefits to implement this plan.  A ten year plan, with each stakeholder putting in 33 million dollars per year, would put a billion dollar stimulus into Rhode Island’s economy.   Energy companies want a safe place to store their energy products and they have the financial resources to design and build the required infrastructure.  Rhode Island would become the center for storing and shipping natural gas to Eastern Europe.  The federal government wants to reduce pollution problems in the bay area and it has the financial resources to accomplish this goal.  The State of Rhode Island wants to protect its vulnerable shorelines.  Rhode Island could work with the United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) to design and build the required shoreline infrastructure.  

Each stakeholder would benefit from this plan. Thousands of good paying jobs would be created, state income tax & sales tax revenue would greatly increase, Rhode Island’s shoreline environment would be greatly improved and the potential damage caused by extreme weather events & rising sea levels would be greatly reduced.  Funds would become available from the public and private sector to guarantee that every Rhode Islander would have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and a stable environment to live in.   

Kenneth Berwick of Smithfield, RI Served three years in the United States Marine Corps from 1954-1957. Berwick is a retired teacher with a BA from RIC in 1960 and a Masters from Syracuse in 1969.


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