Sea level rise and more powerful storm surges and erosion have increased flooding in low-lying coastal areas of Rhode Island. These impacts affect coastal highways, requiring municipalities to make difficult choices about whether and how to maintain or abandon their infrastructure. This fact sheet helps cities and towns understand their legal duties, options, and potential liabilities when considering the future of threatened coastal infrastructure. By using the information in this fact sheet, municipalities can make informed decisions about the consequences of their infrastructure investments. After providing background on nuisance flooding associated with sea level rise, this fact sheet describes Rhode Island law governing responsibility for maintaining public roads. It then describes law and policy considerations related to the two primary options for addressing highway flooding in the state: elevation and abandonment. Considering the legal issues associated with each of these strategies can help municipalities decide the appropriate course of action in the context of a particular location.
Marine Affairs Institute, Roger Williams University School of Law; Thompson, Olivia; and Porter, Read, "Municipal Options to Address Nuisance Flooding of Coastal Highways in Rhode Island" (2019). Sea Grant Law Fellow Publications. 94.