The Pawcatuck River Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study


The Pawcatuck River Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study area is on the south coast of Rhode Island and includes about 28 miles of moderately developed coast in the towns of Westerly, Charlestown, South Kingstown, and Narragansett. The study area includes a series of coastal barrier beaches that front seven coastal ponds. The floodplain completely encompasses the barriers and ponds.


Residential and commercial properties in the Pawcatuck River coastal floodplain are all vulnerable to inundation from coastal storms. Property on the coastal barriers are subject to wave attack as well and to a lesser extent, erosion. The study area includes about 4,800 structures most of which are residential. There is some commercial property in Westerly and South Kingstown. Point Judith in Narragansett has the largest concentration of commercial property and is home to the third largest fishing port in New England. The total value of the existing residential and commercial inventory is estimated to be worth over $600 million. Rock revetments are located along approximately 23% of the beach front properties within Westerly and 31% in the Matunuck area of South Kingstown. Other than that, the shoreline consists of sandy barrier beaches.


The Feasibility Study plan formulation considered a range of structural and nonstructural measures to reduce the risk of storm damage in the study area. Through an iterative planning process, potential coastal storm risk management measures were identified, evaluated, and compared. Initial screening of alternatives determined that detailed study of structural (sheet pile floodwalls and tide gates), soft structural (beach fill/nourishment), and nonstructural (elevation and buyout of properties) should be conducted in Westerly due to the amount of denser development there. Conversely, only non-structural alternatives made sense for full evaluation in the towns of Charlestown, South Kingstown, and Narragansett.   In the end a non-structural plan was recommended for implementation across the four communities and consists of elevating 247 primarily residential structures and flood proofing 21 commercial structures.


For more information, please contact the Project Manager, by e-mail or by calling 978-318-8520.

- UpdatedSeptember 12, 2018

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