Coventry takes pond owners to court over plans to lower water levels

West Bay

COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — The town of Coventry has filed an emergency motion in court to prevent the new owners of Johnson’s Pond from lowering the water levels by two feet.

Soscia Holdings LLC notified residents earlier this week they would be lowering the water levels as Tropical Storm Elsa makes her way up the East Coast.

As it stands, Rhode Island is expected to feel the impacts of the storm Thursday night, and Soscia Holdings claims dropping the water levels by two feet will prevent flooding.

Jonathan Pascua of the Johnson’s Pond Civic Association called the move a “slap in the face.”

“People are really angry about it,” Pascua said, adding that residents were given only days’ notice to remove their boats from the water.

When town leaders caught wind of the plans, they took Soscia Holdings to court in an attempt to stop them from lowering the water levels.

“The storm is 1,000 miles away. That is, I think, subject to only conjecture at this point to begin draining the pond,” Coventry Town Solicitor Nick Gorham said.

The town had engineers testify in court as to how and if Tropical Storm Elsa could impact the pond’s dam. 

Attorney Patrick Dougherty, who’s representing Soscia Holdings, argues potential flooding brought on by the impending storm could cause damage to the area and the pond’s high-hazard dam.

“We don’t want to take the risk of any further damage to the dam components as a result of any significant flooding event,” Dougherty said.

The R.I. Department of Environmental Management, which is in charge of inspecting dams across the state, tells 12 News they are not recommending dam owners lower the water levels before this week’s storm based on the state’s rainfall projection.

Coventry hopes the court will act quickly since Tropical Storm Elsa is fast approaching.

The hearing will continue Thursday morning at Kent County Superior Court. 

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