October 21, 2005

You can’t Ride a Bike on a Path that’s Under Water

Carroll Andrew Morse

Given the choice of repairing a rickety dam, or building a bikepath, which would you choose? If your name was “The Federal Government”, you would choose the bikepath.

According to an article by Zachary Mider in today’s Projo, local, state, and federal officials are concerned about the state of the Tiogue dam in Coventry…

A crowd of lawmakers inspected the aged gatehouse and spillway at the Tiogue Lake dam this morning, highlighting concerns about the safety of the dam after last week's downpours…

The dam is one of six in Rhode Island identified by the state Department of Environmental Management as "high hazard" and in need of repair.

Town officials applied for the grant this spring, worried that a large amount of water could overwhelm the gatehouse and spillway and cause the lake to flow over the earthen dam. If the dam failed, a wall of water could rush down the Pawtuxet River, which flows through West Warwick, Warwick, and Cranston.

Senator Lincoln Chafee is looking into helping Coventry get the grant money. Make special note of the amount needed for repairs…
U.S. Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee, R-R.I., raised and lowered the century-old wooden gate that controls the level of the 219-acre lake, then pledged to press the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a $465,000 grant to improve the gatehouse and spillway.
While Coventry is scrambling to find funds to repair the dam, the Feds are sending money towards Coventry in another form. The highway bill earmarks contain $11,000,000 for bikepaths in the vicinity of Coventry...
Transportation Improvements for the Washington Secondary Bicycle Facility/Coventry Greenway/Trestle Trail (Coventry) $4,000,000
Completion of Washington Secondary Bike Path from Coventry to Connecticut Border $7,000,000

The total amount for Rhode Island bikepaths in the highway bill is $38,000,000. Could Senator Chafee, Senator Reed, Representative Kennedy, or Representative Langevin explain why the federal government is spending a total of $38,000,000 on bikepaths in Rhode Island when we have dams that are falling apart because of lack of funds? Is there, as a first step, some way to reallocate Federal funds so we can spend some of that $11,000,000 already headed to Coventry on repairing dams? After all, you can’t ride a bike on a path that’s under water.