Burrillville Land Trust wins competitive grant for assistance with handling increasing rainfall

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BURRILLVILLE – The Burrillville Land Trust has announced that they are the recipients of a Southeast New England Program Community Assistance Project technical assistance award.

The grant is for development of training for planners, planning boards, watershed groups, land trusts,
public works, municipal employees and others on priority topics in land use planning, watershed protection, and ecosystem services for communities in the Blackstone Watershed.

The announcement was made by Congressman David Cicilline at a ceremony held at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center in Cranston.

“The grant will help showcase water infiltration methods that help clean up our waterways, reduce pollution into our drinking water and protect all the creatures that live near rivers, ponds and streams,” said Paul Roselli, president of the Burrillville Land Trust. “This project came about from a conversation nearly two years ago with members of the community and the land trust board of directors. We wanted to know how we can get away from the 1930s depression era Works Progress Administration method of fixing culverts, storm drains and diversion draining areas that used asphalt, concrete and rip rap – sharp stones next to drainage areas. Have you ever seen a turtle or a snake maneuver around sharp stones called rip rap? It’s not a pleasant site.”

“We wanted to fix that. Part of the answer we thought, was in applying for technical assistance from the Southern New England Program,” Roselli said.

The land trust was one of four in Rhode Island to receive a technical assistance grant in a very competitive process.

“We were very lucky to receive the grant. But we put in a really good application,” Roselli said.

The SNEP and the land trust are working on a series of two training workshops that will focus on moving away from using asphalt, concrete and rip rap to a better way to handle current rainfall and what many believe to be an increase in rainfall over the next few decades. Rhode Island’s annual precipitation averages 42 to 46 inches over most of the state, with a tendency for decreasing amounts from west to east. It varies from about 40 inches in the immediate southeastern Bay area and on Block Island to 48 inches in the western uplands, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

“We get more rain here in the northwest corner of Rhode Island than most other places in Rhode Island,” Roselli said. “And as we saw this year its becoming feast or famine with rainfall…the two scenarios are either periods of drought or torrential heavy rains. All that water has to go somewhere.”

The average annual precipitation for Rhode Island is increasing at a rate of more than 1 inch every 10 years. The frequency of days having one inch of rainfall has nearly doubled, according to a 2014 report titled Overview of a Changing Climate in Rhode Island.

“This series of workshops should bring new information to planning boards and public works assisting them in a better approach,” Roselli said. “We also hope that new partnerships will be developed to maintain these places. We know that our weather is getting warmer and wetter. It’s already happening. Yet our systems to handle the water of today are nearly 100-years-old.”

The workshops are scheduled for sometime in May, 2023.

“These workshops will be for all in the Blackstone Valley as all of us are aware that our rivers, ponds and streams are connected and we are all connected to the water around us,” Roselli.

Those in attendance and who spoke at the grant announcement included Roselli Sen. Jack Reed; Reps. James Langevin and Cicilline; Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza; EPA Region 1 Director David Cash; RIDEM Administrator for Environmental Protection Water Resources Susan Kiernan; and Martha Sheils, director of the New England Environmental Finance Center at the University of Southern Maine.

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