Increasing precipitation associated with climate change is affecting dam operation and hazards in Rhode Island. Flooding caused by increased precipitation or extreme weather events can cause dam failure or upstream or downstream flooding, resulting in loss of life and property. These losses can result in liability, which may vary based on the dam owner and its purpose. This study assists dam owners and the public in understanding the potential liabilities that may arise as a result of flooding from extreme weather events. Section one provides a background of dam hazards in Rhode Island in the context of climate change. Section two introduces the statutory, common law, and constitutional claims that may be brought against a dam owner after a flood. Section three applies these potential liabilities to illustrate how they may apply to different types of dams and dam owners. Section four evaluates Rhode Island law in the context of state laws from the northeast region, focusing on the application of statutory liability, strict liability and negligence standards, and liability for drawdown.
Porter, Read; Philopena, James Jr.; and Lee, Cory, "Climate Change and Dam Owner Liability in Rhode Island" (2019). Sea Grant Law Fellow Publications. 95.