Jul 29, 2014
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New Runoff Law Could Spare Future Flooding

Cranston Rep. Arthur Handy and Sen. Joshua Miller sponsored a bill that would let cities and towns in Rhode Island prevent flooding by requiring builders to comply with strict runoff design standards.

New Runoff Law Could Spare Future Flooding

From the State House press office:

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller and Rep. Arthur Handy has been signed into law, enabling cities and towns around the state to prevent flooding by requiring builders to comply with state standards for pavement, drainage and runoff.

The legislation ( 2012-S 2445A2012-H 7803A) is meant to give cities and towns more power to prevent or reduce the impact of major floods like those in March 2010 that caused severe damage in much of the Cranston and Warwick areas that Representative Handy and Senator Miller represent.

The legislation, which was recently signed into law by Gov. Lincoln Chafee, enables towns to pass ordinances that require those developing new construction or redevelopment to comply with the Rhode Island Stormwater Design and Installation Standards Manual, which requires developers to use methods and materials meant to avoid flooding and runoff problems.

The state already requires compliance with the standards in the manual for projects greater than one acre, as well as those that disturb wetlands or discharge significant storm water into the ground. The new law gives cities and towns the option of adopting the same standards for smaller projects within their jurisdiction.

"This is a way to give municipalities an option they can use, especially if they have areas prone to flooding, to prevent construction methods that exacerbate the problems. If an area in a floodplain, for example, is being developed bit by bit, over time all the additional pavement and other disturbances to the surface can result in there being no place for excess water to go during a large storm. Using these standards would help prevent that water from winding up in people’s basements, homes and yards and damaging their property as well as the environment as it absorbs contaminants on the surface," Miller said (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Warwick).

Handy, of Dist. 18, said  "When the Pawtuxet River flooded in our districts in 2010, there were homes that were completely destroyed, along with people’s cars and personal belongings. While you can’t always prevent flooding, more careful development methods are available to reduce the probability and lessen the impact when it does happen. Our legislation doesn’t force cities and towns to do anything, but it does give municipalities the planning tools that represent the best practices to prevent flooding and protect Rhode Islanders, their property, our rivers, and the Narragansett Bay."

The  Stormwater Design and Installation Standards Manual, developed by the Department of Environmental Management and the Coastal Resources Management Council, sets standards for low-impact development methods to minimize stormwater runoff, manage it naturally and disperse it across multiple locations. Methods can include the use of paving materials that aren’t impervious to water, the planting of vegetation that will help absorb water, and the use of technology to prevent water pollution from trash, automotive leakage or septic systems and cesspools that leach into stormwater.

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