Rhode Island has enacted new protections for the state’s freshwater wetlands. The new legislation, signed into law Wednesday, streamlines the process for developers hoping to build near wetlands.
But that doesn’t mean that it will be easier to build along those wetlands, according to state officials.
Prior to the legislation, developers needed approval from both the state and cities and towns to begin building. Now developers only need state approval.
On average the new state standard is more stringent than the former municipal regulations—some cities and towns had none – said Coit.
“So we are at the very beginning of our regulatory process where we will finalize all the details of that standard, but in general the law establishes a one-hundred foot jurisdictional area.”
Coit said those exact details will be hammered out over the course of the next year. Some cities and towns had stronger regulations than the new state standards, and municipalities will be able to petition for stronger regulations. The Audobon Society tells EcoRI, that though the legislation could do more to protect wetlands, the evironmental advocay organization supports the new measures.
Coit says wetlands play a vital role in Rhode Island’s drinking water supply.
“They collect and filter water, they’ll help prevent sediment from flowing into a river way,” said Coit. “So even if it’s not a wet area per se, keeping development out of the area right around a drinking water supply area makes sense.”
Coit says Rhode Island has already lost more than half its freshwater wetlands.
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