Rhode Island Special House Commission to Study Economic Risk Due to Flooding and Sea Level Rise - Final Report

In June 2015, the Rhode Island resolution H-5478 created an 11 member special legislative study Commission whose purpose was to study and make recommendations concerning the economic risks relating to, and resulting from, sea rise and flooding in Rhode Island, and who would report back to the General Assembly by January of 2016. 

Under the establishing legislation, the Commission was to provide information including economic risks to Rhode Island municipalities, businesses and the investment community so that they may factor sea rise and flooding into their short- and long- term decision making. In particular, the Commission was tasked to perform case studies on the Providence Port, the Newport waterfront and the South County tourism and marine industry, to determine what financial effects rising sea levels could have on them, and to provide information on how to prepare and respond to those risks.

The Commission focused on risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities that would make business assets more susceptible to damage from flooding and sea level rise. These vulnerabilities included deficiencies in building construction, process systems, security, protection systems and loss prevention programs.

The Commission concluded with the following recommendations related to economic risk from sea level rise and flooding:

Recommendation 1: Business and homeowner flood audit programThe Commission believes the best way to prevent property damage due to sea level rise and flooding is to fortify vulnerable assets. One recommendation includes the creation of a flood audit program for property owners and businesses to incentivize property fortification and adaptation.

Recommendation 2: Increase statewide awareness and resources for resiliencyThe 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.

Recommendation 3: Port of Providence and Fox Point Hurricane Barrier risk assessmentsThe Port of Providence includes commercial and industrial uses that are heavily integrated into the region’s commerce stream. The Commission recommends continued support of state researchers in order to build stakeholder support for hurricane resiliency measures. Port stakeholders should continue to conceptualize and evaluate long-range resiliency options that protect the port from storm damage and ensure post-hurricane business continuity.

Recommendation 4: Increase support for business continuity following natural disastersThe Commission recommends a comprehensive review of state resources available to businesses following a natural disaster.

Recommendation 5: Utilize risk assessment tools to understand statewide riskThe Commission believes it is clear that Rhode Island needs to more fully understand the economic implications of sea level rise. 

The Commission was also charged with making recommendations to the General Assembly about further steps to maintain the value of public and private property and revenue, to define adaptation strategies, to better understand the cost of inaction, and to propose new approaches to understand and address the business risks associated with sea rise and storm surge.

Case studies were focused on the sea level rise impacts to the Rhode Island communities of Westerly, Providence, and Newport. The Commission assessed the port and coastal uses and economic risks to these locations. The results are detailed in the report.   


Publication Date: May 12, 2016

Related Organizations:

  • State of Rhode Island

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Resource Types:

  • Agency guidance/policy
  • Assessment

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