Council receives update on East Providence’s resiliency plan

Pertains to rising water levels, potential impacts of climate change

By Mike Rego
Posted 3/4/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — Does East Providence have the pieces in place to respond to any potential emergencies at its shore caused by severe storms or rising water levels?

City Council President …

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Council receives update on East Providence’s resiliency plan

Pertains to rising water levels, potential impacts of climate change

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — Does East Providence have the pieces in place to respond to any potential emergencies at its shore caused by severe storms or rising water levels?

City Council President and Ward 1 member Bobby Britto raised that question and more at the body’s March 3 meeting. Mr. Britto broached the topic under a council communications agenda item titled, “East Providence Resiliency.”

Mr. Britto said he has become more aware of the possible crisis point through his volunteer work on a committee called the Providence Resilience Partnership. He said the group of some 25-30 people is composed of educators, business owners and other professionals who gather regularly to discuss how prepared Providence would be in the event of an unexpected stormwater surge, it plans to mitigate any impact and to also consider factors related to rising sea levels and climate change.

“We’ve all heard of the ‘100-year flood.’ And we all know it’s no longer the 100-year flood. Ten years ago, we had a major flood here. The 10-Mile River and Agawam Park, that overflowed all the over the parking lot and to the basketball courts. We all know of streets that get flooded here. And this is something that’s no longer a 100-year flood. It’s right around the corner from us,” Mr. Britto said, while also referencing the efforts being implemented in Boston to combat sea rise and the famously disastrous federal and state response when the levies broke in New Orleans and the State of Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina.

“Whether you believe it or not, it’s here. We see it all the time on the news whether it’s certain states or certain cities around the country,” Mr. Britto added.

The councilor posed his inquires to City Planning Department and Economic Development Director Bill Fazioli. He asked in the event there is a storm surge does the city have some type of plan of action in place? How would the city mitigate the impact? How updated is the contact information of residents in at-risk areas to warn them of potential issues? Does City Hall, the command center for such situations, have an emergency generator?

Mr. Fazioli responded by telling Mr. Britto and the rest of the council the city does have elements of a climate resilience plan in place. Upon taking the position in the fall of last year, Planning Department employees provided the new director with the most up-to-date work done on the subject.

Mr. Fazioli appeared appreciative of Mr. Britto’s concerns, noting since 2010 the federal government has rendered disaster declarations for four instances of flooding in the city.

“That would usually happen maybe once every 25 years,” the director continued. “To have four in a decade shows climate issues are very real.”

Mr. Fazioli said the city, through the Planning Department, last compiled and published an updated hazard mitigation plan in 2017. However, those duties to do so are now under the auspices of the East Providence Fire Department. He said EPFD Chief Glenn Quick was scheduled to be at last week’s meeting, but withdrew due to an unforeseen personal commitment.

The mitigation plan, and the city’s overall comprehensive plan, has and will continue to assess the impact on flooding, sea level rise and culverts in the city. Mr. Fazioli noted as well, city administrators work closely with state officials, like those at the Department of Environmental Management, and non-profits, such as Save the Bay, on shoreline improvement projects and analysis of the situation.

The director added, “Climate change will be a big part of the next comprehensive plan, which is has never been before…We do have a program in place, but it probably needs to be tightened up and put together in a better fashion…Clearly, it’s (a climate resilience plan) going to be a priority going forward.”

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