2015-12-10 / Around Town

Grant Will Help Drain Runoff /Watershed

By James Merolla

Hurricane Sandy did not do a whole lot of good for Rhode Island, until now.

With access to a potential $2.3 million grant from the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Fund, Middletown saw a glimpse of future storm water drainage improvements that are being designed to catch runoff along rivers and waterways throughout the island.

On Dec. 7, Dean Audet of Fuss & O’Neill showed the Town Council slides and a PowerPoint of multiple water retention projects to be submitted to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) for permitting. Five of the drainage areas will improve water quality and reduce flooding along the Maidford River watershed.

The grant coalesces a partnership among the Town of Middletown, the Norman Bird Sanctuary, the Aquidneck Land Trust and the Center for Ecosystem Restoration. Some $1.8 million of the $2.3 million will go to several key areas of storm water improvement:

Paradise Avenue bio-retention area in Paradise Valley Park, Second Beach (surfer’s end), Third Beach access road elevation/infiltration, Second Beach dune crossovers/restoration, Maidford River/Paradise Avenue Crossing (and culvert), Maidford River/ Third Beach Crossing. Critically, the long-term plan also includes: East Meadows bio-retention at Meadow Lane, Green End Avenue bio-retention northeast corner at Berkley Avenue, Green End Avenue bio-retention southeast corner at Paradise Avenue, Hoogendorn Detention basin retrofits on Berkley Avenue.

Audet said the plan is taking advantage of existing USDA programs that address agricultural impacts and focus on future land acquisitions or easements on critical buffer areas near wetlands.

Anyone who wants to preserve land in the future must preserve it along waterways, added Audet.

Audet’s consultants explained to the council that the new storm water controls were needed, as 40 to 50 percent of phosphorous comes from agriculture, and the other 40 to 50 percent loads from residential land uses.

The plan identified 24 potential new controls to improve water quality, developed concept designs of 10 basins and retention areas with the best potential, and developed final designs and permit applications for five of the most cost effective.

“One of the highest priorities at DEM, because of sediment they have observed, is to take a retention basin that is not functioning well and retrofit it,” said Audet.

Town Administrator Shawn Brown said with council approval, the projects enter the engineering phase, sending them out to bid. The proposals then come back to the council for their approval once they can see what specific costs would be involved, pending matching grants.

Audet said additional steps would involve permitting and construction bidding in the winter of 2016 and then construction in the spring and summer of next year to “maximize what can be built under the existing grant.”

In the future, Audet added, the partnership will apply for more grants to complete construction of other recommended drainage projects.

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