Providence, RI – Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, today announced $1.98 million to prepare Rhode Island’s coastline for rising seas. The funding comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coastal Resilience Grant program, which supports projects designed to help coastal communities prepare for extreme weather and climate-related hazards like sea level rise. The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council is now planning for Rhode Island to see upwards of nine to twelve feet of sea level rise by 2100.
“This is a smart investment in protecting our coastal communities and improving water quality. These projects take a cost-effective and environmentally responsible approach to preparing for rising sea levels and major storms,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NOAA. “Funding spent on coastal resiliency pays off in helping to prevent damage from extreme weather. This is another example of where President Trump’s efforts to zero out coastal resilience funding is short-sighted and would negatively impact Rhode Island.”
“The seas are rising and storms are strengthening,” said Senator Whitehouse. “The natural buffers along our coasts, like salt marshes and sand dunes, are the first line of defense protecting Rhode Island homes and businesses. Those habitats have eroded in recent decades, and this federal funding will pilot innovative projects to rebuild our defenses and create a roadmap for other coastal communities to follow. As we reinforce infrastructure along the shoreline, we must continue working to limit greenhouse gas emissions to prevent steadily rising seas from breaking the Rhode Island shore into an archipelago.”
The Nature Conservancy was awarded $999,999 to help protect coastal areas from flooding by bolstering natural features along New England’s shoreline, including in marshes along the Narrow River in Narragansett and at the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Middletown. The experience gained through the project will benefit communities across the region developing their own approaches to reducing flood risks.
“The Ocean State is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, and an increase in flooding could devastate many of our beloved beaches and coastal neighborhoods,” Congressman Langevin said. “The Nature Conservancy and Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council have been longtime partners in strengthening coastal resilience, and I am pleased this funding will help repair and prevent further deterioration of our nearly 400 miles of beautiful coastline.”
“As citizens of the Ocean State, we do not have the luxury of ignoring climate change. We have seen the damage that extreme weather, like Hurricane Sandy, can cause in our state, and we know the threat is only becoming greater,” said Congressman Cicilline. “Our state’s future depends on how we respond to climate change, and this funding will allow Rhode Island to employ the latest techniques to protect our communities against this serious danger. I will continue to fight to secure funding to help our state defend itself, but truly addressing climate change will require U.S. leadership on the international level.”
The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council received $982,103 to restore thirty acres of degraded marsh in Quonochontaug Pond, which spans Charlestown and Westerly, and an adjacent area used for recreational fishing. Plans for the restoration include depositing dredged material on the marsh surface and replanting native species. The project builds on previous restoration efforts in the area, which were funded by a 2014 Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency award.
“Nature-based coastal erosion control strategies are sorely needed across New England. Seawalls and hard revetments are not a long-term solution and can make erosion worse. This program gives all of coastal New England a head start in developing these approaches and projects to improve natural coastal features and to protect property in a way that is feasible and sustainable,” said John Torgan, Rhode Island State Director of The Nature Conservancy.
The local grants were among $13.8 million awarded for coastal resiliency projects across the country. Applications for grants far exceeded available funding. NOAA received 167 proposals requesting more than $135 million in grants.
“The funding from NOAA will allow the CRMC to continue to build on the partnerships it has established with the Town of Charlestown and Salt Ponds Coalition through previous projects,” said Coastal Resources Management Council Executive Director Grover Fugate. “As a direct result of this project, the CRMC and its partners will improve the resiliency and recreational opportunities of one of Rhode Island’s precious coastal salt ponds. We thank NOAA for this opportunity.”