T.F. Green Runway Project to Alter Wetlands

By ecoRI News staff

WARWICK, R.I. — The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has granted a permit to alter freshwater wetlands to the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) for a runway safety improvement project at T.F. Green Airport. The permit expires July 1, 2016.

The permit is specifically for site alternations related to the proposed reconstruction of a portion of Runway 34 and Taxiway C at its terminus for FAA-mandated runway safety area improvements. The current safety areas are well below current standards for designated length, according to the permit application.

The project includes the installation of an engineered material arresting system, relocation of the vehicle service road, new drainage, and other associated improvements and/or modifications to airport operations such as lighting and navigational systems.

Due to the presence of a swamp and a river at the foot of the slope of Runway 34, the extension of the runway safety area will result in unavoidable alterations and impacts to these wetland resources, according to DEM.

RIAC, in consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state officials, explored a number of mitigation options, according to DEM. Throughout the permitting process, DEM said, RIAC continuously sought to both reduce alterations and impacts, and to provide mitigation options aimed at replacing or enhancing unavoidable wetland impacts.

The permit addresses impacts from stormwater discharges from the airport, and includes the elimination or relocation of stormwater outfalls currently permitted by RIAC’s Rhode Island pollution discharge elimination system (RIPDES) permit.  RIAC must submit an amended application to DEM within 30 days that includes modifications to the RIPDES site-wide stormwater pollution prevention plan and drainage master plan.

Included in the permit are restrictions for time of construction at one of the major mitigation sites, in order to avoid, to the extent possible, interference with the migration of river herring.

“Issuance of the permit represents a major milestone in our airport capital improvement program and will allow RIAC to move forward with necessary safety improvements for airline passengers in a manner that is protective of the environment,” RIAC CEO Kelly Fredericks said.

It’s anticipated that the project, as approved and with the conditions set forth in the permit, will result in an overall improvement in the water quality of Buckeye Brook as well as in the quality of wildlife habitat and anadromous fisheries of the Buckeye Brook riparian system, according to DEM.

Replacement of culverts under Lake Shore Drive, and improvements to the river channel north of the culverts will result in multiple benefits, including improvements to access for migrating river herring, slight improvements to flooding, and increased connectivity between currently fragmented areas of riparian wetland, DEM said.

Compliance with the requirements of the stormwater design and installation standards will result in treatment of stormwater runoff from paved runway areas that currently receive no water quality treatment, according to DEM.

“After a thorough and careful process, I am pleased to see the permit for this important runway safety project move forward,” DEM Director Janet Coit said.