U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse today joined with state officials and community partners along the shore of Gull Cove in Portsmouth to announce a new $200,000 federal grant for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM).
In partnership with Save The Bay and The Nature Conservancy, RIDEM will use the funding to improve shoreline access and coastal resiliency at Gull Cove and Quonochontaug Pond Breachway in Charlestown.
“The resiliency projects at Gull Cove and Quonnie Pond Breachway will improve shoreline access for Rhode Islanders and strengthen coastal defenses against rising seas and storms,” said Whitehouse in a statement. “I worked hard to create the National Coastal Resilience Fund so the Ocean State could rely on a dedicated stream of funding to prepare for and adapt to climate change.”
The grant comes from the National Coastal Resilience Fund, which Whitehouse created to restore and strengthen the natural infrastructure that protects coastal communities, according to a press release from Senator Whitehouse’s office. The bipartisan infrastructure law passed late last year included $492 million over five years for the National Coastal Resilience Fund, which is jointly administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Both Gull Cove and the Quonochontaug Pond Breachway have experienced increased flooding and erosion due to climate change, damaging parts of the coastline and complicating vehicle and pedestrian access. RIDEM will use the funding to complete designs and permitting for nature-based improvements. Plans include increasing native shoreline vegetation and restoring wetlands, as well as removing damaged infrastructure and reconfiguring vehicle access points.
“With the sea level having risen almost a foot on Aquidneck Island since 1930, the resulting erosion along with increased coastal flooding and more frequent and intense storms have compromised access to important shoreline sites such as Gull Cove,” said RIDEM Director Terry Gray in a statement. “But for Senator Whitehouse’s legislation creating the National Coastal Resilience Fund in 2018, DEM might not have a means to fund the repair and preservation of Gull Cove, which constituents flock to for recreational fishing, shellfishing, birdwatching, and boating. DEM appreciates Senator Whitehouse’s foresight in establishing the National Coastal Resilience Fund and his going to bat to ensure that Rhode Islanders have safe access to the coastline that we all love so much.”
RIDEM previously won a $75,000 grant from the National Coastal Resilience Fund in 2019 to advance resiliency efforts on Quonochontaug Pond. Other past recipients of National Coastal Resilience Fund grants include the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, and the University of Rhode Island and Friends of Green Hill Pond.
“It’s no secret that climate change impacts are already being seen and felt around Narragansett Bay. Resilience projects, like the one taking place at Gull Cove, are critical to ensuring that our local habitats and ecosystems can remain healthy throughout these changes,” said Save The Bay executive director Jonathan Stone in a statement. “We’re thrilled to celebrate this National Coastal Resilience Fund award and the next phase of this project, which will decrease erosion, manage stormwater runoff, and improve public access, and are grateful for the advocacy and support of Senator Whitehouse and his staff in making it possible. Projects like these can only be achieved when many different groups and agencies come together to address the challenges that impact us all.”
“Rhode Island is a natural leader on climate resilience and these new projects illustrate that,” said John Torgan, Rhode Island State Director of The Nature Conservancy in a statement. “We build scalable projects that use nature-based solutions to address coastal erosion and habitat loss in a way that is cost-effective and enhances public access to the tidal waters.”