The House of Representatives approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Lauren H. Carson on Tuesday, May 16th that will require all members of municipal planning boards or commissions in Rhode Island to participate in a free training program on the effects of rising sea levels and the effects of development in flood plains.
The legislation, which now heads to the Senate, was one of the recommendations made in a 2016 report by a legislative commission that studied the economic risks posed to Rhode Island by flooding and sea rise. Representative Carson was the chairwoman of that commission.
“As sea level rises and we experience more severe weather events, Rhode Island communities must engage in thoughtful, careful planning and development to better protect public and private assets well into the future. In most communities, municipal planning boards are volunteers, and they may or may not have any knowledge about how flooding and sea rise might change their community in the future, or what they can do to encourage development that is better-suited to those changes,” said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) in a press release. “This is a very simple, quick means of professional development that will arm municipal planners with information about these risks and help steer Rhode Island toward more resiliency, while protecting public and private investments from flood losses in the near and more-distant future.”
The bill (2017-H 5042aa) would require that each member of a planning board or commission participate in two hours of free training on the effects of development in a flood plain and the effects of sea level rise once every two years. Development of the training program was included in last year’s state budget, and the program is currently being developed at the University of Rhode Island.
The requirement applies statewide and not only to coastal communities because flooding occurs along inland rivers and water bodies as well, and will become more drastic and frequent as sea level rises. Inland communities also need to plan development that is more resilient and adapted to the reality of flooding near water bodies.
The commission found that, while businesses are coming to terms with the threat of sea level rise and conceptualize solutions, there is still much work to be done to ensure the Ocean State adequately adapts to sea level rise. The commission suggested the state work toward meeting adaptation goals that embrace the broader aim of protecting Rhode Island’s overall economy from the flooding and rising waters, and this legislation was one of the recommendations it made to help Rhode Island adapt development.
The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Susan R. Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) and Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown).