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Senate passes Sosnowski bill changing how CRMC administrator is appointed

STATE HOUSE — The Senate today passed legislation introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, New Shoreham, South Kingstown) that would change the manner in which the administrator of the Coastal Resources Management Council is appointed.

Under the legislation (2021-S-2217), the governor, rather than the council, would appoint an executive director of the agency. The bill also adds the requirement that the gubernatorial appointment be subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. The executive director would coordinate with the director of the Department of Environmental Management. The bill also defines the purpose of the director to continue planning and management of coastal resources.

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“This legislation would make the CRMC a cabinet-level agency led by a governor-appointed executive director,” said Senator Sosnowski. “This is a positive step needed to modernize, update and reform the agency to achieve more accountability and transparency for an agency that performs vitally important functions that are critical to the future of Rhode Island’s environment and economy.”

The Coastal Resources Management Council is primarily responsible for the preservation, protection, development and restoration of the coastal areas of the state through the implementation of its integrated and comprehensive coastal management plans and the issuance of permits for work with the coastal zone of the state.

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate OKs package of Sosnowski bills that would address safety of dams throughout state

STATE HOUSE — The Senate today passed a package of bills introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) that looks to improve the safety of dams throughout the state.

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The legislation is the result of an annual report from the Department of Environmental Management on dam safety. Each of the bills addresses a different issue that was raised as an area of concern in the report.

The first bill (2022-S-2294) would amend dam safety standards to require the State Building Code Standards Committee to take into account the effect of climate change on inundation areas below dams classified as high, significant, or low hazard.

“This addresses construction in inundation areas downstream from dams, and also is a good opportunity to educate people about those dams and the property damage that could result if that dam were to fail,” said Senator Sosnowski. “This would help property owners to think about how they would proceed with any construction in those areas.”

The second bill (2022-S-2295) would authorize the Department of Environmental Management to assess administrative penalties for failure to comply with emergency action plans relative to significant or high hazard dams and would mandate that the department and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency establish a notification system in the event of severe weather conditions consisting of dam advisories, dam watches and dam warnings.

The third bill (2022-S-2297A) would establish a fund for the purpose of facilitating the repair or removal of high hazard or significant hazard dams that are unsafe when the dam is classified as an orphan or insolvent dam. The state would have the right of cost recovery against any dam owner for all sums of money expended by the fund plus reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs of litigation.

“The state has a number of dams whose ownership is a mystery due to how long ago they were built,” said Senator Sosnowski. “There are other owners of problematic dams who just don’t have the financial means to carry out repairs, yet those repairs need to be done for purposes of public safety and property protection. This fund would allow the state to assess and repair those dams so they don’t pose a threat to people or property downstream.”

The measures now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.