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Repost: Seeking a solution (to flooding and beach closures)

After the 2010 floods, I wrote about the public desire for some sort of solution to prevent future flooding. Spoiler, we can’t prevent future floods, but we can change what we’re doing to mitigate the impact of flooding.

We haven’t had a giant flood since, but related to the flooding problem is stormwater runoff polluting the bay. Bob Plain writes today on RIFuture about how Warwick has been heavily impacted by beach closures related to pollution caused by runoff.

Also today, Save The Bay is holding a press conference about the high number of beach closings this year. The AP’s Erika Niedowski tweets from the press conference:


That is to say, I believe, that the Providence Combined Sewer Overflow Project is working, but our paved and other impervious surfaces are still causing us harm.

In 2010 it was massive flooding which was supposed to be our wake-up call about the damage our built environment was doing to us. We did not learn many lessons it would seem from those floods, as a year later a smiling Cranston Mayor Fung celebrated the opening of a new Stop & Shop on the banks of the Pawtuxet.

Will we learn any lessons from our 2013 beach closures wake-up call?

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News & Notes

→ The Atlantic Cities: Why Mayors Should Run the Department of Transportation

The transportation issues of the 21st century will be less about building new highways and more about building new transit, about offering more multi-modal options to bike and walk. Transportation policy going forward won’t just be about moving people as far and as fast as possible, but about leveraging transportation in service of economic opportunity and livable communities.

So here is one modest thought about who understands all of this as Obama searches for LaHood’s successor: mayors. There have been three former mayors at the helm of the DOT in the department’s 46-year history, most recently former San Jose Mayor Norman Mineta. As the agency further modernizes its mission, who better to take us there than someone who comes from a city?

I’m not sure I could even understand a world where L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was not our next Transportation Secretary.


→ The New York Times: America’s Mid-20th-Century Infrastructure

Europeans visiting the Northeastern United States – and many parts of the East Coast — can show their children what Europe’s infrastructure looked like during the 1960s.


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Videos of Irene flooding

While many Rhode Islanders were out of power for up to a week, we escaped from the worst of Irene’s wrath.

Vermont was devestated by flooding related to the storm. In this video a 141 year-old covered bridge in Lower Bartonsville is swept away by flood waters.

This covered bridge built in 1870 could not survive the raging water of the Williams River in Lower Bartonsville village in the town of Rockingham, Windham County, VT. We were hoping all day the water would not reach the top of the abutment but the bridge lost its battle rather gracefully as it floated a bit down stream before breaking into pieces.

Our town has set up a fund to rebuild our historic bridge.

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Chafee mobilizing National Guard to combat street flooding

WPRI reported via Twitter that the Governor will mobilize the National Guard to combat Street flooding:


Breaking: Gov. Chafee authorizes mobilization of RI National Guard members to help with street flooding.less than a minute ago via HootSuite

Have you been out there? Very good idea Governor!

More later and as always, if you have photos of the mess share them on Flickr or email them to contact@gcvpd.org.

Update: WPRI’s coverage is here with lots of info about the storm, warnings, etc.

Basically, if you are not out, don’t go out, if you are out, be careful.

Update: Now WPRI is Tweeting that the National Guard isn’t needed, crazy day.


RIDOT not using RI Nat’l Guard after all. Crews were able to clear storm drains. Comforting to know Guard is on standby though.less than a minute ago via HootSuite

I still think getting the National Guard out would be a most excellent idea.

Update: Judging from this ProJo Video, the recommended attire for this evening is swimsuits and ice skates:

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News & Notes

→ President proposes new jobs, renewed infrastructure

It doesn’t do anybody any good when so many hardworking Americans have been idled, yet so much of America needs rebuilding. That’s why I am announcing a new plan for rebuilding and modernizing America’s roads and rails and runways for the long term.

Over the next six years we are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads–enough to circle the world six times. We’re going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways–enough to stretch coast to coast. We’re going to restore 150 miles of runways and advance a next-generation air-traffic control system to reduce flight-times and delays for American travelers.

We used to have the best infrastructure in the world. We can have it again. We’re going to make it happen. This will create jobs and make our economy run better over the long haul.

[USDOT Fastlane Blog]

→ HafenCity: A Case Study on Future-Adaptive Urban Development

Hamburg…will allow flooding, but designed a major new part of the city to be resilient to high water, with water-proof parking garages, a network of emergency pedestrian walkways 20 feet above the street, and no residential units at ground level. Even the parks in this new Harbor City district are designed to withstand battering by waves and storm surge, either by floating as the waters rise, or by incorporating lots of hard surfaces that only need to be washed off when the waters recede.

[WorldChanging]

→ Car Capacity Is Not Sacred

It may well be that in today’s political climate, the only way cycling and pedestrian advocates will get the infrastructure they want is if they assure the masses that car travel will not be impacted in any way. But the trouble is, that position suppresses the reality that cars are in fundamental conflict with walking, biking, and transit.

[Publicola]

→ World Trade Center Complex Is Rising Rapidly

Two years ago, it was difficult to imagine how the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site of the trade center and is building most of it, could ever finish the eight-acre memorial in time for the 10th anniversary of the attack, on Sept. 11, 2011. Today, it is difficult to imagine what would stop them (though, given the site’s tortured history, the possibility shouldn’t be completely dismissed).

[The New York Times]

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Seeking a solution


Video from WJAR-TV Providence, extended footage at WCVB-TV Boston

In the media we’ve been hearing a lot of talk about solutions to these flooding issues. People in areas prone to flooding wanting solutions from the government, etc. The fact is, there isn’t really a solution. If the Pawtuxet or other rivers want to leave their banks, they will.

But that does not mean there are not ways to mitigate the impact and severity of floods. Look at this table of the historical crests of the Pawtuxet River:

Pawtuxet River Historical Crests
Rank Height Date
(*) 20.79 ft 03/31/2010
(1) 14.98 ft 03/15/2010
(2) 14.50 ft 06/07/1982
(3) 13.68 ft 10/15/2005
(4) 13.26 ft 01/26/1979
(5) 13.11 ft 04/25/1983
(6) 12.57 ft 06/08/2006
(7) 12.40 ft 04/17/2007
(8) 11.88 ft 03/25/2010
(9) 11.86 ft 03/31/2001
(10) 11.84 ft 01/26/1978

Via: NOAA

Seven of the top 10 crests are in the last 10 years (the top 2 being this month). What is causing the river to flood so high now? I suspect that it is a combination of climate change and development in the river’s watershed. On the climate front, we just got 10 inches of rain in 2 days. That is obviously not normal. Will it happen again soon? Probably not. Thinking back over the storms we’ve had over the last decade, will it be another 50 or 100 years before it happens again? Maybe not. Climate change experts have been predicting larger, wetter storms for our region, and it certainly feels like those predictions are coming true.

On the development front, well, we here on this site quite like dense urban development. The key problem with the development patterns in the Cranston and Warwick areas is the dependence on the automobile is causing us to pave wide swathes of the landscape. That pavement prevents water from soaking into the soil and sends it all flowing directly into the river. Look at the video above, now look at this aerial image:

Image from Bing Maps

The river has nowhere to go, the mall parking lots just send the water straight into the river and when the river rises, it can’t soak into the land to dissapate the flooding. Head east and north of here and you see more pavement.

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