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How Do You Make the Most of the Taunton River?

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How Do You Make the Most of the Taunton River?

July 18, 2008; Page A12

Regarding your editorial “Mr. Frank’s Wild River” (July 9) about the “wild and scenic” designation of the lower Taunton River: I was born and raised in Fall River, Mass., and I’m very concerned about the restrictions this designation would put on any future development for the city. Our city is in dire need of economic and tax-base expansion. The city has consistently had a much higher unemployment rate than the rest of the state. The liquefied natural gas (LNG) project will pay at least 10 times more taxes than our largest taxpayer and create numerous jobs and business opportunities to support the shipping traffic.

The congressional bill proposes the exact opposite of what our Fall River Harbor and Downtown Economic Development Plan recommended. In part the plan states: “The Shell oil terminal site represents an important opportunity for the city and the greatest potential for supporting a revitalized port industry in Fall River. The site’s 45 acres is relatively flat, has deep water access, an engineered shoreline, and good road and rail access, making it ideal for marine and general industry and related purposes.” The Fall River City Council then added support by passing a resolution that supports dredging the Taunton River to a depth of 40 feet.

This ongoing battle to block this project has defied common sense and logic.

David Proulx 
Fall River, Mass.

With 40 miles of free-flowing waters, the Taunton River is the longest undammed coastal river in New England. Running through undisturbed forest for much of its length, the river supports the largest alewife run in Massachusetts, and is home to hundreds of species of plants, birds, fish and other wildlife, some of which are globally rare.

The legislation filed by Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Edward Kennedy is the culmination of 20 years of effort by local officials, groups and individual residents to protect this valuable river. The Taunton River Study Bill was filed in 1998, four years before Weaver’s Cove Energy proposed to construct an LNG terminal in Fall River.

In a recent report to Congress, the Bush administration documented how the Taunton River meets the demanding standards for wild and scenic designation. The report concluded that the river possesses “outstandingly remarkable values” in four of the areas specified by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, including ecology and biodiversity, fisheries, history and archaeology, and recreation and scenery. Without the designation, this exceptional resource is at risk. Congress should act now, and give the Taunton River the recognition and protection it deserves.

Jack Clarke 
Director of Public Policy & Government Relations 
Massachusetts Audubon 

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