Officials to discuss Navy land realignment

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — The Rhode Island Defense Economy Planning Commission will meet at Middletown Town Hall next week with the administrators of all three Aquidneck Island communities to discuss the realignment of unused U.S. Navy properties on the island.

The meeting is scheduled Thursday, Dec. 14, at 11 a.m. in the Town Council Chambers, Middletown Town Hall, 350 East Main Road.

The U.S. Navy has significant surplus property on Aquidneck Island, including roadways, water and sewer lines and structures, some of which date from the 1940s and 1950s. For a decade or more, the Navy has indicated a desire to transfer ownership of those properties to public and private interests. A June 2016 report by the engineering consulting firm Woodard & Curran, commissioned by the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, outlined the opportunities available and the goals of stakeholders.  

Jan Greenwood, senior project manager with Woodard & Curran, is on the agenda at the meeting to discuss that report. Middletown Town Administrator Shawn Brown, Newport City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson, Jr. and Portsmouth Town Administrator Richard A. Rainer Jr. are all scheduled to participate.

The commission is co-chaired by Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton).

“There are some exciting opportunities to strengthen our communities and make much better use of unused Navy properties and infrastructure on the island, both through public and private ownership. Some of the properties are potentially valuable, including waterfront sites and sewer and water lines that service much of the land. Additionally, the Navy is committed to remediating any past contamination resulting from its historic use of base properties before transferring them. I’m very interested in updating the people of Aquidneck Island on how these plans are developing, and bringing some attention to the potential these properties hold for our communities,” said Representative Ruggiero.

Said Senator DiPalma, “The details of such plans, of course, are always complex, and involve considerations such as the potential life expectancy and costs of maintaining some of the older infrastructures. But with careful analysis and planning, our communities, our local businesses, and our good neighbor, the Navy, can all benefit from putting surplus Navy property to better use. Especially on an island, where there are natural limits on available land, it’s a tremendous opportunity when hundreds of acres could open up. Our commission recognizes the value of this chance, and we want to do anything we can to help the process move forward.” 

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