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7/5/2022 Governor signs legislation to address safety of dams throughout state
STATE HOUSE — Gov. Daniel McKee has signed legislation introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown) and Rep. Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) that looks to improve the safety of dams throughout the state.

The legislation is the result of an annual report from the Department of Environmental Management on dam safety.

The first law (2022-S 2294, 2022-H 8295) amends dam safety standards to require the State Building Code Standards Committee to take into account the effect of climate change on inundation areas below dams classified as high, significant, or low hazard.

“This addresses construction in inundation areas downstream from dams, and also is a good opportunity to educate people about those dams and the property damage that could result if that dam were to fail,” said Senator Sosnowski, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill. “This would help property owners to think about how they would proceed with any construction in those areas.”

“With rivers rising and climate change, we have to look beyond the dams and consider the potential for floods,” said Representative Fogarty, who sponsored the House version of the bill. “This will extend state codes into the area below the dams to provide a degree of safety and security to property both public and private throughout the state.”

The second law (2022-S 2295, 2022-H 8327) authorizes the Department of Environmental Management to assess administrative penalties for failure to comply with emergency action plans relative to significant or high hazard dams and would mandate that the department and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency establish a notification system in the event of severe weather conditions consisting of dam advisories, dam watches and dam warnings.

“Even though every municipality is required to submit an emergency action plan to DEM for each significant or high-hazard dam in their jurisdiction, only 68 out of the 176 qualifying dams have an approved plan,” said Representative Casimiro, who sponsored the House version of the bill. “Giving the DEM the authority to assess administrative penalties will provide an added incentive to get this done so these communities can plan what actions will be taken in the event of an emergency, including steps to notify and evacuate people located nearby.”

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903