COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — The owners of Johnson’s Pond are taking the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to federal court over a cease and desist order requiring they comply with a new state law.
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court Monday by Soscia Holdings claims the cease and desist is unconstitutional. The cease and desist orders Soscia Holdings to increase the water to levels that are consistent with historic use.
The cease and desist comes after Gov. Dan McKee signed a bill into law that requires dam owners to get a permit from the DEM before raising or lowering water levels. Johnson’s Pond is one of six bodies of water this law applies to.
In response, Soscia Holdings argues that the DEM ordered them to adjust the water levels “without having given Soscia a reasonable time or hearing which would permit Soscia to comment and be heard on the historic use of the dam.”
The lawsuit states the actions by the DEM “require Soscia to keep its submerged land under water which actions completely deprive Soscia of all economically beneficial use of its property.”
The DEM said the owners can continue to adjust the water levels until a judge steps in, despite the new law being in effect.
The pond’s water levels have been a point of contention ever since Soscia Holdings purchased its dam and water flow rights two years ago.
Residents have reported the low water levels at the pond have impacted wildlife and their properties.