Rhode Island H 5042/S 1005 2017: Flooding and Sea Level Rise Training for Municipal Planning Boards and Commissions

Rhode Island has approved legislation that requires all members of local planning boards and commissions to participate in a training program on the impacts of flooding and sea level rise to the state. One of the priorities is to help ensure that local decision makers can calculate the effects of sea level rise and flooding on development and land use in flood plains. The training is a free two-hour course required once every two years, for both coastal and inland municipalities - as flooding is expected on inland rivers and waterways as sea level rises as well.

The legislation was one of the recommendations made in a 2016 report by a special legislative commission that studied the economic risks of flooding and sea rise for Rhode Island. The Commission focused on risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities that would make business assets more susceptible to damage from flooding and sea level rise. 

The Recommendation reads: Increase statewide awareness and resources for resiliency

The Commission realizes that many policy makers in municipal and state government are unaware of the threat of sea level rise. As such, several proposals should be developed to increase awareness: mandatory climate, flooding and sea level rise training for local planning commission, zoning boards, and realtors; a flood insurance incentive program for property owners in the floodplain; and, the dissemination of the Coastal Resources Center’s adaptation catalogue to property owners in the flood plain.

According to existing legislation, a Rhode Island planning board or commission has the sole responsibility for preparing a comprehensive plan for a municipality; has the power to review and approve, approve with conditions, or deny requests for variances and special-use permits submitted as part of land development and subdivision applications; is required to submit an advisory opinion and recommendation on all zoning matters referred to it by the zoning board of review under the provisions of the city or town zoning ordinance; and may be directed to prepare an annual capital budget and a comprehensive, long-range capital-improvement program for submission to the city council. All of these actions will now be informed by a greater understanding of development in flood plains and coastal zones subject to sea level rise. 


Publication Date: September 27, 2017

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  • State of Rhode Island

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