Nature & Outdoors

Cranston v Rivers

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by Josh Wood Monday April 5, 2010

The Pocasset River floods a portion of Pontiac Avenue in the floods of March 2010The Pocasset River obscures a portion of Pontiac Avenue during the floods of March 2010.

For all flood recovery assistance and information, including disaster unemployment help and FEMA flood damage registration, visit the state’s flood recovery web site.

On the nights of March 9 and 10, Cranston residents were presented with plans to help alleviate some of the city’s recurring flood problems. A small team of city officials, federal aides and engineers presented slide shows of two proposals to use the $1.5-million federal stimulus floodplain initiative money awarded to the city. Part of funds will be used to purchase of development rights to 100 acres on the lower Pawtuxet River and the fields just south of Blackamore Pond.

The projects would also introduce native species, new channels, and ponds in an attempt to enable parts of the floodplain to better handle excess runoff.

A group of Fletcher Avenue residents, hoping to get relief from the incessant flooding on their street, were upset when it became clear that the proposals weren’t targeting that part of the river. Mayor Alan Fung said that he hoped to use the city’s easement earnings in a future Pocasset River flood control project with the Town of Johnston.

It was amazing how well-timed the presentations were – just 72 hours before the first of two record-setting rain events that would lead to the worst flooding in the state’s history. Eventually the Pawtuxet River would also flood the news, and probably would’ve made an appearance on Larry King, had it not just spent three days at the Warwick Mall and as a miserable guest in countless homes and businesses.

During the course of the presentations, the phrase “we’re paying for the sins of the past” was heard more than once. Although I’d like to believe we’ve made positive changes to our development patterns, recent projects such as the Cullion Concrete Plant and the Stop and Shop on banks of the Pawtuxet River suggest we have more work to do. Anything to keep vulnerable land safely out of the city’s hands is a good thing, and tightening the Department of Environmental Management’s watershed development standards would help.

The engineers made it clear that the proposed projects would not end the flooding problems in the city, and obviously there’s not much you can do when 8 inches of rain falls in 40 hours on top of swollen rivers. Many of Cranston’s truly flood-prone properties, the ones that flood on an annual basis, will probably continue to flood until those properties are reclaimed and returned to a natural state. The cost of buying back flood-prone property and tightening DEM standards would be worth the investment.

But in the short term, it was a coup for Jack Reed’s office to secure the federal funding. Now the city can start the healing process on the rivers.

[where: 02910]

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