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8:44 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Brown study finds floodplain development worsened 2010 floods

Providence, RI – Who can forget the sight of the Pawtuxet River spilling its banks, leaving in its wake a soggy trail of homes and businesses. roads and bridges? According to a new report out of Brown University's Center for Environmental Studies, the flood was caused by a confluence of factors.

Days of constant rain were only part of the problem, according to a Brown's investigation. The Center for Environmental Studies reports that development of the Pawtuxet River floodplain over a period of decades contributed to the disaster.

"With this development," the report concludes, "has come the decline of forested and vegetated regions and the increase of impermeable surfaces." In other words, nowhere for the rain to go.

The report also found that flood insurance policies are too cheap to discourage development of floodplains and may even encourage development.

And, noting that four dams failed during the 2010 floods, the report recommends the state take over ownership - and maintenance - of more dams.

This week marks one year since floodwaters inundated Rhode Island. WRNI looks back at last spring's floods in a week-long series of reports.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? Please email us, we'd like to hear from you. news@wrni.org.