RICHMOND — Members of the Town Council agreed at their remote meeting Tuesday to renew their efforts to obtain state or federal funding to mitigate flooding in the KG Ranch Road-Valley Lodge neighborhood.
Councilor Nell Carpenter said she had been approached by homeowners who asked whether the town still planned to address the flooding issue, which has existed for 50 years.
“In some communications that I had with some residents who live in the KG Ranch/Valley Lodge area, this has been an ongoing concern for many, many years,” she said. “… The last time this was addressed by council was in 2016.”
There are 160 homes in the subdivision. The frequent flooding, which was particularly severe during the floods of 2010, has been attributed to two factors: the topography of the land, which is low and bowl-shaped, and water flowing down into the subdivision from Interstate 95.
In 2016, the town and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation agreed that the state would reimburse the town up to $70,000 for the engineering of a flood-mitigation plan. There was also a discussion of building three retention ponds which would hold the runoff from the interstate. The ponds would be located on land belonging to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
Department of Public Works Director Scott Barber said the town had conceptual drawings, but no further work had been done.
“There was nothing that was ever taken to the construction phase,” he said. “There were still deed issues and legal issues as to whether or not DEM could even use the property that’s under DEM control for retention ponds, and then where some of the piping and alterations to the town-owned land, I know there are restrictions on what the land can be used for…. We haven’t had correspondence with DOT in quite a while.”
Town Planner Shaun Lacey said he would explore funding sources that might cover not just a portion, but the entire cost, of the mitigation plan.
Contacted after the meeting, Carpenter said she was pleased to learn that the town might be eligible for funding.
“I was very happy to hear that, because that’s always what the bottom line is,” she said. “The bottom line is the bottom line, and we’re always really concerned as far as what something will cost the taxpayers, so to find out that there are funds available, both federal and state, it’s hopeful.”
B. Joseph Reddish, who served on the council when the town was exploring ways to deal with the flooding issue, suggested that the town might consider allocating funds to the flooding problem, since it appeared to be willing to spend money on other initiatives, such as open-space acquisitions.
“So here we have people that have homes that are in a bad flood area and it could be prevented, so it costs $1 million,” he said. “At the same time, we’re spending a half-million dollars on conservation stuff. Where’s the balance?”
Reddish said he worried about another catastrophic flood, like the event in 2010.
“It’s going to be kind of devastating, and that’s why I think we really need to address the pressure that’s on that area to see if we can move that water a different way,” he said.
Council President Richard Nassaney said after the meeting that even if the town put in place flood-mitigation measures, the retention ponds would cause problems of their own, because they would direct runoff from the interstate to a drinking water wellhead.
“Unfortunately, there is no guarantee to be able to mitigate any of that water safely and away from the water supply for the town,” he said.
In addition, the town would have to pay for an engineering plan, which, Nassaney said, would cost considerably more than the promised state reimbursement.
“I know that they’re very expensive and the town would only be reimbursed $70,000 and you still couldn’t guarantee that the problem would be fixed,” he said. “I think that would be the biggest waste of taxpayer dollars ever, to go out on a wish and a whim and not to have any form of guarantee.”