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RI to receive $13M in federal flood help

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Warwick Mall flooding in March, 2010. (AP file)

Warwick Mall flooding in March, 2010. (AP file)

Rhode Island will receive $13 million in additional federal funding to help recover from the flooding last spring, the worst in the state in more than 200 years, officials announced Monday.

Roughly $4 million of the Community Development Block Grant funds will go directly to Warwick and Cranston, two cities hit hard last March when the adjacent Pawtuxet River crested at record levels. The remainder will be given to the state and then allocated to other communities hobbled by the flooding, such as Westerly, West Warwick and Johnston.

The flooding, which followed several days of record-setting rainfall, put thousands of people at least temporarily out of work, washed out roads and bridges and did millions of dollars in damage.

The funding announced Monday is on top of the roughly $100 million in flood aid the federal government has allocated to Rhode Island in the last month, Sen. Jack Reed said.

Officials say the money comes with few restrictions and can be used for a variety of flood repair and mitigation, including rebuilding damaged homes and businesses and purchasing uninhabitable properties along flood plains.

Reed, a Democrat and member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the state was working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies to review floodplains in hopes of preventing similarly catastrophic flooding.

“The other thing we want to do is not just look back or cope with the present,” Reed said. “We know that if we don’t take significant steps to mitigate the potential for another flood, we’ll see this damage repeated.”

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said he would focus his attention on strengthening the levee around the city’s wastewater treatment facility, which failed during the flooding, upgrade the disaster communication system and possibly purchasing damaged and contaminated properties.

The communities have until late October to decide how the money will be allocated.

“The cities and towns are cash-strapped at this time and, quite frankly, financially, we would not be able to afford this,” said Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena.

The state will also have to provide only a 10 percent match, instead of the 25 percent normally required, for Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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