Environment

Why Did the Squirrel Cross the Road? News roundup from ecoRI

New Report Inundates Old Flood Maps

Think you’re safe from rising waters in Pascoag? Think again.

Many people who live inland believe that the risks of flooding from hurricanes, sea-level rise and coastal storms don’t apply to them. 

But a new report by the First Street Foundation finds there is a much higher risk of inland flooding than previously believed. Flood risk is traditionally analyzed using the Flood Insurance Rate Map by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

In Rhode Island, FEMA maps identify 23,900 properties as having substantial flood risk. By comparison, the First Street Foundation flood model identifies an additional 9,000 properties as facing this same level of risk.

According to the report, PVD has the greatest number of properties at risk of flooding, with 5,200 currently at risk, which is about 13% of the city’s total number of properties.

Pandemic Side Effect: Less Roadkill

COVID-19 has resulted in staggering human casualties, but wild animals have enjoyed a reprieve from deadly encounters with cars.

As humans stayed locked indoors, more animals than usual survived their often-treacherous attempts to cross roadways to reach breeding grounds and foraging habitat or to escape predators. About a million wild creatures typically die on US roads every day, so it’s likely that tens of millions escaped a crushing death.

Ironically, by not doing anything, Americans have engaged in the biggest conservation action since the national parks were formed, according to Fraser Shilling, director of the Road Ecology Center.

Scott Goodwin, the animal control officer in North Smithfield who disposes of an abundance of road-killed animals every year, observed far fewer dead animals on northern Rhode Island roads this spring than usual.

Toxic Hotel

Construction of a waterfront hotel in Newport would provide harbor views for guests, but the project could unleash arsenic, lead and a known carcinogen.

The 150-room hotel would be built on Waites Wharf, the former location of oil tanks and warehouses owned by the Standard Oil Co., blacksmiths, auto-repair shops, and painting and welding companies. The wharf was later extended using coal ash from Newport Gas.

Residents who live nearby are concerned that the suggested remediation plan, which includes capping a section of the wharf with clean soil, a geotextile fabric and asphalt or concrete, won’t be enough.

A recent site investigation report conducted by SAGE Environmental on 10% of the site found that the area contained toxic chemicals, including arsenic, lead and the carcinogen vinyl chloride, among others.

Rhode Island Trifecta: A Golf-Course, a Strip-Mall Developer and a Lawsuit

Pawtucket-based developer, Marshall Properties Inc., which builds Walmarts and strip malls, has proposed converting Metacomet Golf Club in East Providence into a residential and commercial center.

Conceptual ideas presented by Marshall Properties to planning officials include a 60,000-square-foot hotel, 235,000 square feet of retail space, 760,000 square feet of residential apartments and townhouses, 150,000 square feet of office space, and 80,000 square feet of assisted-living units.

The developer also has offered to preserve about 30 acres as open space that includes a walking trail along Watchemoket Cove.

However, neighbors aren’t pleased with the likelihood of increased traffic and losing a quiet nature refuge that is home to coyotes, deer and foxes.

The golf course along Veterans Memorial Parkway was expected to be preserved by a group of golf-friendly investors who bought the golf course and club for $750,000 in early April 2019. But the cost of upkeep proved too great. In less than a year, the ownership group reversed course and announced plans in late February to sell to Marshall Properties Inc.

A group of disgruntled club members, who believe they were deceived by the abrupt sale of the property, is suing the initial investment group for breach of contract and fraud, according to Golf Digest.

East Providence: The Windy City? 

An offshore wind-energy staging area may be coming to East Providence. 

Gov. Gina Raimondo recently approved a $15 million tax credit to aid an East Providence port project.

The rectangular outcrop into upper Narragansett Bay known as the South Quay is considered one the most regrettable approvals by the Coastal Resources Management Council. In 1976, the Providence & Worcester Railroad received authorization from the state waterfront zoning board to infill 36 acres of Providence Harbor for a rail and shipping port. 

The tidal area was supplanted with stone and gravel, but the prominent artificial site sat idle for decades as proposals to build the wharf came and went.

The new owner is a subsidiary of a Boston-based development company with investments in shopping centers and entertainment venues such as the Orpheum Theatre in Boston. A portion of the property is slated for a waterfront entertainment venue, while the South Quay would serve as a staging area for offshore wind-energy development. This new port would partner with other wind-staging areas at the Port of Providence and the Port of Davisville in North Kingstown.

For more detail on these stories, and to get the latest environmental news, visit ecoRI.org. To keep up with the latest environmental news, subscribe to ecoRI News’ free weekly e-newsletter at www.ecoRI.org.

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