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Posted 9/14/2015

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By Timothy J. Dugan
USACE, New England District


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District has completed a draft Environmental Assessment and draft Finding of No Significant Impact for the continued operations and maintenance activities at the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier in Providence, Rhode Island.

The Environmental Assessment (EA) identifies, documents and evaluates the environmental effects of the continued operation and maintenance of the Hurricane Barrier in accordance with its authorized project purposes.

The Environmental Assessment evaluates operation and maintenance activities for compliance with Federal laws, regulations, Executive Orders and Executive Memorandums, and to meet compliance requirements of the Corps’ Environmental Review Guide for Operations.

The Fox Point Hurricane Barrier, a Federal flood risk management project, provides flood protection to about 280 acres of the city of Providence from hurricanes and other coastal storms.

The Corps of Engineers operates the Hurricane Barrier to provide for flood control and support to recreation events throughout the year. The primary recreation support is the operation of the Hurricane Barrier to maintain navigation in the Woonasquatucket, Moshassuck and Providence Rivers during low tide at the request of WaterFire Providence.

The preferred alternative consists of continuing to operate the Hurricane Barrier for flood damage reduction in response to storms and weather-related events that could cause flood damage to downtown Providence’s commercial center, transportation facilities, public utilities and residences. An evaluation of the existing operation and maintenance actions against the impacts associated with them does not show significant adverse environmental impacts occurring from continuing the existing operation and maintenance activities.

The Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact are available for review at the Providence Public Library, located at 150 Empire Street in Providence, Rhode Island. They are also available for review and download on the Corps website at: http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/ProjectsTopics/FoxPointHurricaneBarrier.aspx.

Impacts were analyzed on water resources, fish and wildlife, vegetation and wetlands, endangered and threatened species, land use and recreation areas, socioeconomics, cultural resources, air quality and noise and floodplains.

Potential short-term impacts to water quality and fisheries were identified during complete closure of the Hurricane Barrier. These include short-term elevation of temperature and decline in dissolved oxygen in the waters behind the Hurricane Barrier when it is completely closed. Fish passage upstream and downstream of the Hurricane Barrier may be delayed by complete closure, but will resume once the Hurricane Barrier is opened. These short-term impacts are considered minimal.

The Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact are being coordinated with: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Region 1); U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office; the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management; the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council; the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife; the Rhode Island State Historic Preservation Office; and the city of Providence, Rhode Island. The public notice with more details is available for review online at: http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/PublicNotices.aspx.