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U.S. Court Nixes Soscia LLC Bid to Stop DEM Johnson’s Pond Enforcement

[] A map showing the dam at Johnson's Pond, also known as Flat River Reservoir, in Coventry, RI.

[] A map showing the dam at Johnson's Pond, also known as Flat River Reservoir, in Coventry, RI.
[] A map showing the dam at Johnson’s Pond, also known as Flat River Reservoir, in Coventry, RI. A U.S. Court judge has just ruled against Soscia Holdings LLC in its effort to shirk DEM’s Johnson’s Pond Enforcement of historic water levels.
COVENTRY, RI — A U.S. Court judge has dismissed Soscia Holdings, LLC’s motion to prevent Johnson’s Pond enforcement of historic water levels by RI Department of Environmental Management officials.

The order, issued by United States District Judge Landya McCafferty, also grants Soscia 30 days to resolve the pending Notice of Violation and penalty without accruing additional fines for failing to maintain Johnson’s Pond water levels. On July 12, 2023, the DEM issued Soscia a “Notice of Violation,” assessing a civil penalty of $23,000 for failure to comply with the Permitting Act and its implementing regulations.

“”When that time (the 30 day period) expires, defendants may take any appropriate steps to enforce the Notice of Violation,” according to the ruling.

“The court grants defendants’ motion to dismiss (doc. no. 57), with the exception that the court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Counts V and VI, which are dismissed without prejudice. Soscia’s motions for injunctive relief (doc. nos. 48, 52, 56, 70) are denied as moot, as is Soscia’s motion for a hearing on its most recent motion for injunctive relief (doc. no. 71),” McCafferty wrote.

Soscia Holdings, LLC, owned in part by Doug Soscia, has owned the dam and water rights on the pond since purchasing them for $1.7 million in 2020.

Johson’s Pond Management Dispute

Shortly after that purchase, water levels on the pond began to fall, hampering recreation and wildlife in the area. Soscia Holdings LLC also sued the Town of Coventry for failing to maintain the dam.

In a 2021 interview with Jason Messier, West Warwick’s Ward 3 Town Council representative and moderator for the Coventry, RI; Biggest Town in The Smallest State facebook group, Soscia said he plans to charge the town of Coventry a $1.5 million lease for use of the lake and also charge lakefront property owners $2,000 a year with a 3.4 percent increase annually.

In the same interview, Soscia said the risk of the dam failing and causing damage Soscia Holdings LLC would be responsible for was too high without the compensation he proposes.

“If there wasn’t compensation for the use of the dam and the maintenance of the property, I don’t think anybody would increase the risk of putting water against the dam,” Soscia said. “We can’t put water against the dam and expose ourselves to liability, of the dam breaking, and being responsible for damage downstream.”

In February 2021, Soscia told WJAR10 they had lowered the water levels in the pond the previous year out of concern for safety.

Socia’s plans for the dam and the recent management of it have generated ample social media commentary and a petition on, “Give Coventry Johnson’s Pond Back!” that has collected 1,500 signatures.

In 2022, the General Assembly passed a bill authored by Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis’ (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) requiring any person operating or owning a dam with a storage capacity greater than 1,400 normal storage acre feet of water to obtain a permit from DEM to raise or lower the water level behind the dam.

Soscia Holdings LLC then sued to fight the DEM’s enforcement of that law, the motion recently dismissed. A copy of the U.S Court decision, and the original Decision and Order re Federal Case_3.25.24




Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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