Rhode Island

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2013 Bay Issues

At the State House 

The Rhode Island General Assembly wrapped up its 2013 session by failing to pass legislation to phase-out cesspools and strengthen inspection of dams. On two other issues – restructuring of government agencies and protection of natural resources – the Assembly adopted amendments supported by Save The Bay and our fellow environmental organizations. 

Statewide Cesspool Phase-out (H6031)

The Cesspool Phase-out bill did not pass, despite the hard work of Reps. Teresa Tanzi (Narragansett), Donna Walsh (Charlesown, Block Island), and Art Handy (Cranston).   Sponsors built momentum and vow to continue their fight for passage in 2014.

Dam Inspection (H5535)

A Save The Bay-supported bill to require owners of “significant-hazard” dams to inspect their dams failed to pass out of Committee. thus remaining a safety hazard to people and property downstream of Rhode Island’s aging dams. Warwick Rep. Frank Ferri and Sen. Michael McCaffery introduced the bill, which, if passed, would have also created opportunities for more fish passages in freshwater rivers.

Executive Office of Commerce (H6063)

Save The Bay and environmental groups successfully fended off an attempt to place CRMC and some DEM division and functions, including permitting, under a new Department of Commerce in a bill that was passed by the General Assembly.

Wetlands & Septic System Regulation Task Force (S672)

Save The Bay won amendments to a bill that would have stripped municipalities of their right to establish stronger, local protections of natural resources than State protections. The amendment supported by Save The Bay establishes a task force to review state regulations and make recommendations for the State by 2015.  

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2012 Bay Issues

At the State House

Save The Bay is working with the Governor and the General Assembly to promote clean, clear water, thriving marine life and healthy habitats, and to make it easier for people to use and enjoy the Bay. Here are Save The Bay's top issues and bills in 2012:

Clean Water Bond - $20 MM for RICWA SRF ($12 wastewater, $8 MM drinking water)

Decades of water quality improvements in Narragansett Bay will be threatened if we do not continue to invest in our wastewater treatment plants and upgrade our residential septic systems. The benefits of a clean bay are many; clean beaches, open shellfish beds, vibrant waterfronts, productive maritime industries, thriving tourism, and strong commercial and recreational fishing industries.

The state’s drinking water revolving fund provides project funding for water suppliers throughout RI. Water suppliers need to upgrade their aging infrastructure and meet new demand in growing areas, while building the interconnections and reserve capacity needed to give Rhode Island a safe and reliable drinking water system.

Conservation and Recreation Bond - $20MM

The goals of this bond are three-pronged. They include: habitat restoration and stormwater management; farmland and open space preservation; and enhancement of RI’s parks and recreational assets.

Dam Safety and Inspection H7285/S2615 

Poorly maintained dams pose a threat to public safety. This bill insures that owners and the state are aware of the condition of their dams and the option of removal. Removing old dams can restore habitat and river connectivity as well as reduce flooding damage.  This bill requires regular inspections by owners of high and significant hazard dams starting in 2015, inspection reports which include the option of removal in the case of unsafe dams, and recording of any outstanding orders or notices from DEM regarding unsafe dams in local land records for the city or town in which the dam is located. This bill passed the Senate, but not the House.

Abandoned Vessels nd Navigational Obstructions H7801/S2610

This bill provides funding for the removal of derelict vessels and navigational obstructions in state waters.

Warwick Sewer Tie-ins S2086/H7936

RI needs to continue to phase out cesspools, support improvements in residential wastewater treatment systems, and increase sewer-ties. Rhode Island property owners are typically required to tie into a new sewer line within one year. Save The Bay opposed this bill which would overturn this requiremnt for Warwick residents only, but it ended up passing.

Dry Lands Bill - H7866/S2612

This bill would override local authority over zoning, increase development in wetland areas and on slopes,and  increase sprawl.  This damages the quality of our groundwater and health of our streams. It changes the character of our communities.  Save The Bay opposes H7866/S2612.  



CRMC (H 7333, S2190) These bills would set the number of seats on the CRMC at twelve and bring the composition of the Coastal Resources Management Council into line with the Separation of Powers amendment. The bills also create a new joint committee for environmental oversight.

Massachusetts Legislature
Sustainable Water Resources
  Save The Bay supports efforts to address stream flow and make dam removal a more clearly defined option in the dam safety regulations. This legislation requires the adoption of stream flow standards that are protective of natural aquatic life, provide a balance among uses and preserve the water source. It would also allow water or sewer districts to collect a fee to offset the impacts of water withdrawals or sewering. The bill strengthens the dam safety regulations and provides a definition of abandoned dams. Dam safety fines would be increased, and a comprehensive list of dams, including those that are abandoned or no longer serve a public use would be created.

Community Preservation Act  Save The Bay supports efforts in the Massachusetts Legislature to strengthen the Community Preservation Act. Since being signed into law in 2000, the CPA has been adopted in 40% of the Commonwealth's cities and towns. It has helped municipalities preserve 10,274 acres of open space, create or rehabilitate 2,300 affordable housing units, and develop 1,300 historic preservation projects and 500 recreation projects. CPA has created a state and local partnership by matching locally raised revenue with funding from a statewide trust fund. Because of the popularity of the program, the trust fund has had to drop its match to 67% rather than 100% of locally raised funds.

This bill would increase the annual minimum trust fund match to 75%. It would also allow communities to fund their projects through other municipal funding sources and would clarify allowable uses so that communities can rehabilitate more of their existing recreational resources. This bill is advancing during the 2011 legislative session.

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