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The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) today announced that it has awarded $4,360,600 in matching grants to 13 municipalities and community organizations for climate resilience projects across Rhode Island. 

The grants will fund 14 projects to restore and improve the climate resilience of vulnerable coastal habitats, as well as river and stream floodplains and related habitats, according to DEM. 

Funding includes $4 million from the 2018 Green Economy and Clean Water Bond, along with $360,600 from the 2014 and 2016 Green Economy Bonds for flood mitigation and stormwater.  The Governor’s recommended $69 million Beach, Clean Water, and Green Bond for 2020 include additional funding to make critical investments in municipal resilience and clean water.  

“We know that climate change poses an existential threat to our state and our 400 miles of coastline,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo in a press release. “These grants will support our Resilient Rhody strategy and help us ensure that we are able to protect both our people and our natural spaces.” 

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“Rhode Islanders have seen places we love eroded, flooded, degraded, and lost due to the impacts of climate change,” said DEM Director Janet Coit in a press release. “These grants will enable us to work with a wide group of municipalities and organizations across Rhode Island to protect our treasured places and advance a healthier, more resilient Rhode Island. The 2018 Green Economy and Clean Water Bond was approved by nearly 80% of Rhode Island voters, and it is great to see these funds go directly into helping our communities prepare for the impacts of our changing climate.”  

“Rhode Island is already experiencing the impacts of climate change, continuing to place our communities, critical infrastructure, and natural systems at risk” said Shaun O’Rourke, Director of Stormwater and Resilience at Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank and the state’s Chief Resilience Officer in a press release. “The Infrastructure Bank is proud of its work with municipalities and organizations to help identify and accelerate project implementation and these grants will play a role in strengthening our state’s resilience to a changing climate.”

The grants awarded today continue the state’s efforts to assist and advance the resilience of Rhode Island’s municipalities, including removing aging dams in the Kickemuit River watershed, improving resilience along the Woonasquatucket River in Providence, and investing in local, sustainable development plans in Pawtucket’s Transit Oriented Development district.  

Climate change is causing extreme weather, inland and coastal flooding, and sea level rise – resulting in environmental and economic challenges for Rhode Islanders and around the world. Scientific modeling predicts that these impacts will accelerate. Each of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns is vulnerable to climate change impacts, with infrastructure and natural systems at risk due to their location in riverine or coastal floodplains. 

The grants awarded today include: 

Barrington, $100,000: Promote coastal resilience at Allin’s Cove and Latham Park to restore and prevent future shoreline erosion allowing for salt marsh migration and preservation of public access to the park. 

Bristol County Water Authority, $1.2 M (Warren):  Promote the ecological resilience of the Kickemuit River system by removing the Upper ($750,000) and Lower ($450,000) Kickemuit River dams, increasing flood storage capacity of the wetland, and reducing flooding of low-lying roads during precipitation events and coastal storms. The removal of both dams will restore a tidal estuary, salt marsh habitat, and create a salt marsh migration corridor under future sea level rise scenarios.

Coventry, $130,600: Improve the Upper Dam Pond by reducing stormwater runoff from local roadways and the surrounding high-density residential neighborhoods and phosphorus loadings into the pond. Funding for this grant is from 2016 state bond funding for stormwater projects.  

Farm Fresh RI, $370,000 (Providence): Utilize nature-based solutions at the new Food Hub site to create sustainable landscape/habitat space, including raising surface grade to mitigate flooding, incorporating public greenspace (including native plantings) and increasing permeable surfaces to protect against future flooding and prevent runoff along the Woonasquatucket River in Providence’s Valley neighborhood.

Groundwork RI, $230,000:  Groundwork Rhode Island, along with the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council and the Eastern RI Conservation District, which are all partners in the RI Green Infrastructure Coalition, will conduct climate resilience projects in select communities in Providence, Pawtucket and Bristol to engage residents in nature-based stormwater retrofits and climate resiliency education to address the environmental needs of these areas such as flooding and urban heat.  

Narragansett, $140,000: Improve resilience at the Middlebridge Conservation Area through the removal of impermeable pavement and installation of salt-tolerant grasses, shrubs and other vegetation to create a park-like setting that will enhance the resilience of the site and accommodate sea-level rise in the coming decades. 

Newport, $500,000:  Eliminate dry-weather flooding associated with sea level rise and significantly minimize wet-weather flooding (by up to 80%) through the installation of tide gates and bar racks in the vicinity of Wellington Avenue. Funding for this grant is from both the 2018 Green Economy and Clean Water Bond ($270,000) and 2014 state bond funding for flood mitigation ($230,000). 

North Kingstown, $80,000: Incorporate low-impact stormwater management with enhanced green infrastructure to adapt to changing coastal conditions and mitigate stormwater runoff and high tide flooding in the municipal parking lot in Wickford.  

Pawtucket, $400,000: Promote sustainable development in the Transit Oriented Development district by supporting a nature‐based approach (parklets, tree plantings, green infrastructure) to improve the resilience of the neighborhood and advance local redevelopment plans.  

Providence, $500,000: Construct green infrastructure, native plantings, and street trees as part of the planned active transportation project along a one-mile stretch of the Woonasquatucket River in the Valley and Smith Hill neighborhoods to absorb stormwater runoff, restore native habitat, reduce flooding and improve resilience along the river.  

Warren, $60,000: Improve resilience in the vicinity of Market Street and Jamiel’s Park by installing tide gates to address the frequent flooding impacting residents and businesses.  

Warwick, $400,000: Support the Seaview Drive and Strand Avenue Shoreline Restoration Project to prevent erosion, protect existing infrastructure, enhance water quality, improve natural habitat, and provide better public access to the shore.  

Watch Hill Fire District, $250,000 (Westerly): Maintain access to the Napatree Point Conservation Area by elevating the sandy entrance pathway using natural materials and implementing infrastructure improvements to minimize flooding.  

Grant applications were evaluated and scored by a review committee consisting of members of DEM, RI Infrastructure Bank (RIIB) and RI Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC).  

A Request for Proposals (RFP) for an additional $1,000,000 from the 2018 Green Economy and Clean Water Bond in for similar climate resilience projects will be released in late 2020 or early 2021. 

For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.

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