Westerly, Be Prepared: for Flooding and Other Natural Hazards
2023 Hazard Mitigation & Flood Management Plan (HM&FMP)
While there are many aspects of coastal life in Westerly to celebrate, it does leave us vulnerable to several natural hazards. Tides are pushing waters onto our streets with more regularity and we are on the frontlines for sea level rise. More frequent and intense rainfall is becoming the norm resulting in increased inland and street flooding. Westerly is home to the mouth of the Pawcatuck river which drains approximately 300 square miles of the Wood-Pawcatuck River Watershed through the heart of the Town’s economic center. The next Flood of 2010 or Superstorm Sandy could be around the corner.
The Town is working hard to be prepared and has developed the 2023 Hazard Mitigation & Flood Management Plan (HM&FMP) to strengthen our resilience to a number of natural hazards, including flooding and hurricanes. The HM&FMP updates the Town’s 2018 Hazard Mitigation Plan (FEMA requires a 5-year update) and expands the focus on flood management (helping with our CRS score). The Plan was overseen by an Advisory Committee comprised of Town staff, residents, business-owners, conservation organizations, and other stakeholders. The Advisory Committee meetings were open to the public.
The Plan assesses the likely impacts of natural hazards that historically have or are reasonably anticipated to impact the people and property of the Town (examples include flooding, ice storms, drought, fire, hurricanes, etc.). The Plan establishes updated goals and objectives and develops a mitigation strategy and action plan with a list of prioritized projects. It was developed in accordance with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requirements, and includes Community Rating System (CRS) Flood Management provisions.
Below is a link to the HM&FMP that was adopted by Town Council on February 27, 2023 and submitted to RIEMA (Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency) & FEMA for review.
2023 Hazard Mitigation & Flood Management Plan (HM & FMP) Final Draft for Agency Review
We need to work together to understand local risks, make solid choices, and invest in long-term community well-being.
Your Input is Important!
Community involvement was central to the planning process. We would like to thank those who engaged in one or more of the following public outreach activities during the creation of this Plan. Your feedback was essential for developing the robust action plan included in the HM&FMP.
PUBLIC REVIEW DRAFT PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD (FEBRUARY 7-27, 2023)
The Public Review Draft of the HM&FMP was available for the public to review from February 7-27, 2023. Public comments were received prior to and during the Public Hearing on February 27, 2023.
PUBLIC HEARING (FEBRUARY 27, 2023)
A public hearing, hosted by the Town Council, was held on February 27, 2023 at 5:30pm in the Westerly Town Council Chambers. There was a brief project presentation followed by question and answers from the Town Councilors and public comment period. At the end of the public hearing, the Town Council adopted the HM&FMP and authorized the consultant to submit it to RIEMA and FEMA for review.
ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETINGS (November 30, 2022 - January 30, 2023)
Development of the Plan was overseen by an Advisory Committee made up of Town staff, residents, business-owners, conservation organizations, and other stakeholders. All meetings were open to the public and were held in person at the Town Hall (Development Services Conference Room located in the basement near the Building Department or in Town Council Chambers).
Notes from prior meetings:
- Meeting #1 (November 21, 2022)
- Meeting #2 (November 30, 2022)
- Meeting #3 (December 7, 2022)
- Meeting #4 (December 20, 2022)
- Meeting #5 (January 18, 2023)
- Meeting #6 (January 25, 2023)
PUBLIC INFORMATIONAL MEETING: December 20, 2022
A public informational meeting, hosted by the Advisory Committee, was held on December 20, 2022 at 6:00pm in the Westerly Town Council Chambers. There was a brief project presentation followed by an open discussion on the past occurrence of natural hazards and potential future areas/issues of concern. Click the link below to view key points from the presentation.
Key Presentation Points from Public Information Meeting (December 20, 2022)
Public Comments from Public Information Meeting (December 20, 2022)
PUBLIC OPINION SURVEY: November 22, 2022 - December 15, 2022
To help ensure the Plan reflects community priorities and concerns, the Committee hosted an online survey. The Advisory Committee would like to thank the 204 residents, business owners, and other stakeholders who submitted responses to a public opinion online survey in November/December 2022. Roughly a third of the respondents additionally included comments and recommendations. All comments were reviewed and many of the suggestions have been recognized incorporated in the 2023 Action Plan. The results of the survey can be viewed at the link below.
What is Hazard Mitigation?
FEMA defines hazard mitigation as, "any sustained action taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to life and property from natural hazards." Good planning before, during, and after disasters can protect our health, our daily ways of life, and promote equity in our community.
What is Flood Management?
FEMA defines flood (floodplain) management as “a community-based effort to prevent or reduce the risk of flooding, resulting in a more resilient community.” As inland and coastal flooding is a chronic problem in Westerly, it is important to identify measures that will help alleviate the impacts of flooding.
Why is a HM&FMP Important?
As one of Rhode Island’s communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise, the Town of Westerly understands that a well-developed Hazard Mitigation & Flood Management Plan is an important planning tool that can:
- identify goals to prepare and adapt to changing hazards and vulnerabilities
- engage community and regional stakeholders and link local and regional planning efforts
- educate community members to increase personal safety and resiliency
- improve opportunities for mitigation funding
While we can’t prevent natural hazard events, such as hurricanes and nor’easters, pre-disaster planning and investments in preventative measures can reduce the impact of these events and improve post-disaster recovery.
Want to Learn More?
Following are some links that will provide additional information related to the HM&FMP Project.
- 2018 Westerly Hazard Mitigation Plan
- 2020-2040 Westerly Comprehensive Community Plan
- 2019 Westerly Community Resilience Building Workshop Summary of Findings
- 2022 Westerly Route 1 Corridor Report
- Westerly Geographic Information System (GIS)
- RI BeachSAMP and STORMTOOLS
- FEMA - Guide to Expanding Mitigation: Making the Connection with Public Health
- RIDOH - Climate Change and Your Health
Questions regarding the Plan update can be directed to Alyse Oziolor, Principal Planner (401-348-2550; firstname.lastname@example.org)