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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Rhode Island (Section 319I - 1994)

Rhode Island has identified and targeted runoff as one of the major contributors to poor water quality throughout the state. As such, its goal is to control soil erosion and stormwater runoff through efforts like the soil - erosion control ordinance.

Technical Assistance and Legislation Helps Communities Control Runoff

In targeting runoff in its Nonpoint Source Assessment and Management Plan, Rhode Island decided to help communities prevent and control water quality impacts from soil erosion and stormwater runoff, particularly from new construction activities. Using section 319 funds, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management's (RIDEM) NPS Pollution Management Program developed a model ordinance and self-supporting technical assistance program over three years to address this issue. In 1989, a multidisciplinary task force began work on legislation to allow communities to adopt a soil erosion control ordinance. The ordinance was prepared by the RIDEM NPS Program, with guidance from the task force, and was adopted by the state general assembly during the 1990 session. The legislation gives communities the authority to adopt a soil erosion ordinance. The task force also developed consistent guidelines and conducted peer reviews for best management practices to control soil erosion and stormwater runoff.

In 1990 and 1991, the Rhode Island conservation districts used section 319 funds to hire a full-time engineer. The engineer provided technical assistance to communities by consulting with community officials and builders, reviewing soil erosion and stormwater runoff plans, and making site visits before, during, and after construction. The district engineer also advised communities and builders when other environmental regulatory approval from federal and state programs would be needed.

The district engineer has visited all communities at least once to meet and educate local officials about the need to adopt the ordinance. The conservation districts also hold a yearly training program for municipal officials and private consultants on how to develop and implement soil erosion and stormwater runoff plans.

Initially, the conservation districts used approximately $130,000 of section 319 funds for seed money to pay the initial salary for a district engineer, while developing a fee structure for localities to pay for the technical assistance. As of 1993, the conservation districts had established cooperative agreements with 20 of Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns, enabling the financially self-sufficient program to provide necessary and beneficial technical services throughout the state. Although the localities have no way to quantify specific water quality improvements, they believe that their water quality has improved as a result of this program.

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