JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Cynthia Nova and her mother put on waders Wednesday so they could walk through knee-high water to get to their car, which they keep on the dry side of Belfield Drive.
The road, located perpendicular to the Pocasset River, is notorious for flooding. Since 2010, Nova said flooded roads have been a reoccurring problem in the neighborhood and this year’s rainy April didn’t help the situation.
“Large pickup trucks can get through for now, but I have a small Carolla,” Nova said. “So I don’t want to get stuck in a car like when we got stuck in 2010.”
In November 2018 that the federal government declared the neighborhood a disaster area. The declaration calls for residents of two homes along the river to move out, that way the houses could be knocked down and the land could be turned into a flood plain.
Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena told Eyewitness News last year that the residents residing in those homes would not be forced out and would receive payment from the federal government if they decided to do so.
Allen Campbell and his mother live in a home that is occasionally affected by the flooding, though they don’t have to cross the flooded roadway to leave the neighborhood. They’re currently being offered a buyout for their home, but he said his family doesn’t want to leave.
“They did kind of make it seem like people who wouldn’t accept the buyout would complicate it for people who wanted the buyout, meaning that they would have to come up with a new scenario… and that we were kind of holding up the works,” Campbell said.
Nova said her family wasn’t offered a buyout and it would be impossible for them to sell their home in the condition its in.
“Unfortunately, there are half a dozen people on the other side of the water,” Nova explained. “They weren’t offered a buyout. We weren’t offered a buyout, so we’re stuck. If we try to sell the home, they would have to fix all of this in order for us to be able to sell the home.”
Federal and state engineers believe a clogged culvert, from years of debris flowing into it, was the original cause of the flooding. Campbell feels the clogged culvert could be fixed without having residents leave their homes behind.
Polisena said the area has been pumped before, but it’s expensive for the town and only temporarily fixes the problem. He said the issue is currently in the hands of the federal government.
“Our obligation is to take over the property as an easement which I’ve agreed to, and our obligation is to resurface the road once it’s done, which I’ve agreed to,” Polisena said.