§ 2-1-18. Declaration of intent.
Whereas it is recognized that freshwater wetlands, buffers, floodplains, and other areas that may be subject to storm flows and flooding as defined in this chapter provide storage and absorption areas for flood waters which reduce flood hazards; and
Whereas all flood plains for all rivers, streams, and other water courses are certain to be overflowed with water periodically in spite of all reasonable efforts to prevent those occurrences; and
Whereas flood waters overflowing into freshwater wetlands, buffers, floodplains, and other areas that may be subject to storm flows and flooding are not only released more slowly downstream, thus reducing the damage they may cause, but flood waters may be absorbed into the ground water supply further reducing the flood hazard and recharging the vital ground water resource; and
Whereas precipitation patterns are known to be changing and Rhode Island has experienced a higher frequency of intense storm events resulting in flooding; and
Whereas freshwater wetlands and buffers are among the most valuable of all wildlife habitats and are high-value recreational areas as well, and wildlife and recreation are widely recognized as essential to the health, welfare, and general well-being of the general populace; and
Whereas it has been established through scientific study that activities conducted in lands adjacent to freshwater wetlands can exert influence on their condition, functions, and values and subsequently these lands should be protected; and
Whereas it has been established through scientific study that maintaining lands adjacent to freshwater wetlands as naturally vegetated buffers protects the functions and values of wetlands and that such buffers in and of themselves perform vital ecological functions; and
Whereas it has been established through scientific study that freshwater wetlands and buffers maintained in a natural condition can provide benefits to water quality through the filtering and uptake of water pollutants, retention of sediment, stabilizing shorelines, and other natural processes; and
Whereas freshwater wetlands, buffers, and floodplains, are increasingly threatened by random and frequently undesirable projects for drainage, excavation, filling, encroachment, or other forms of disturbance or destruction, and that a review of scientific literature indicates that aspects of existing state standards to protect these areas need to be strengthened; and
Whereas the protection of freshwater wetlands, buffers, floodplains, and other areas that may be subject to storm flows and flooding from random, unnecessary, and/or undesirable drainage, excavation, filling, encroachment, or any other form of disturbance or destruction is recognized as being in the best public interest and essential to the health, welfare, and general well-being of the general populace and essential to the protection of property and life during times of flood or other disaster affecting water levels or water supply;
Whereas the lack of uniform standards results in duplication of reviews administered by state and local governments and burdens businesses and property owners who require a predictable regulatory environment to be successful; and
Whereas it is recognized that statewide regulatory standards to protect freshwater wetlands, buffers, and floodplains are in the public interest, important to supporting economic vitality, and necessary to ensure protection is achieved in a consistent manner; and
Therefore, the provisions of the following sections are intended to preserve freshwater wetlands, buffers, and floodplains and regulate the use thereof through the establishment of jurisdictional areas and the regulation of activities consistent with this chapter.
(G.L. 1956, § 2-1-18; P.L. 1971, ch. 213, § 1; P.L. 2015, ch. 218, § 1.)