October 22, 2014
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Fletcher flood wall requires support of property owners

At the same time residents were making a case against a development in western Cranston, residents abutting the Pocasset River were making a case for a flood wall that they believe could lessen habitual flooding problems in the area.

Engineered by Fuss & O'Neill, the flood wall would start at Plainfield Pike and go down both sides of the river. The plan also features basins in strategic spots along the wall.

On the Cranston side, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is confident that a steel sheet pile wall would protect the properties along Fletcher Avenue.

"It's a good project and it's not going to cost us any money. It will keep the water flowing and there will be no problems downstream," said Ward 5 Councilman Richard Santamaria.

The project hinges, however, not on the residents who continue to seek relief, but on the businesses in the area. There are eight businesses along the wall that need to sign off on the plan in order to move forward. That consent is needed by September.

"I could see the people from Fletcher Avenue licking their chops; they want it so bad," Santamaria said. "We just need all eight people to sign off on it."

Santamaria is the outgoing chairman of the city's Flood Commission. On Monday, he passed the torch to Ward 3 Councilman Paul Archetto, but said he plans to stay involved. He is hopeful that the businesses will do this for the benefit of residents.

"Just because you don't flood - these other people are hurting," he said.

Director of Administration Gerry Cordy said his office would meet with those businesses to discuss how to proceed, and hopefully to finalize details.

"It is a strictly voluntary project - every property owner that is affected by this has to voluntarily step to the plate and agree to its terms of conditions," he said.

Without the support of the homeowners and businesses in the area, State Conservation Engineer Kevin Farmer said NRCS could not proceed under the current plan.

"We have to have support and participation from the community. The community has to be receptive to it, and approve of what we're going to do," Farmer said.

If those businesses do not sign on, Cordy said revisions would be needed.

"It will significantly slow down the project and force it to be revised and refined in order to work around those one or two neighbors, which is not in the best interest of the city," he said.

NRCS has already secured funding for the design and engineering phase of this project. If the city is able to garner the support of property owners in the area, they will begin to look for funds for implementation and construction.

"They were very positive that we could get the funds available to start," Santamaria said.

With the signatures, the city will be able to start the permitting process through the state Department of Environmental Management. Cranston would also be responsible for obtaining land rights for the work.

Michael Behm and Brian Dupont, resident members of the Cranston Flood Commission, said residents are anxious for work to begin. Once clearance is given, flood wall construction could begin next summer.

Behm said the project would improve home values and lower costs for residents.

"By putting in this flood wall, and upon approval by FEMA and DEM, they will not need flood insurance anymore. That's a big savings right there," he said, noting that some homeowners are paying more than $2,000 annually on flood insurance, in addition to homeowners' insurance.

Though the historic floods of 2010 are distant memories for many people, Councilman Mario Aceto said at Monday's City Council meeting that it should remain a priority for the administration and for the city overall. He requested a list of updates on where the city stands for other flood mitigation projects. To date, four homes have been sold under the voluntary acquisition program.

Cordy said he was happy to oblige, but noted that most projects hinge on outside funding.

"All of these monies are coming from outside sources; there's very little city money associated with it," he said.

Dupont says the commission will continue to fight for residents who face continuous flooding.

"We'll keep plugging; that's all we can do," he said.


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