March 9, 2016

Rhode Island Delegation Announces $891,243 to Help Protect Rhode Island Coastline

NOAA Funding to Help Coastal Communities in New England Prepare for Severe Storms and Rising Sea Levels

Washington, D.C. – Today, Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline announced $891,243 in federal funding for a partnership between Rhode Island and four other New England states to study the effects of coastal storms and develop tools and solutions to help communities respond to these events.  The partnership will include researchers from the University of Rhode Island (URI) and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC).

“We need to work together to make our cities, towns and critical habitat more resilient to the effects of climate change.  This federal funding will help researchers at URI and CRMC study and develop the most effective strategies to reduce vulnerabilities to future coastal damage and protect Rhode Islanders against coastal hazards,” said Senator Reed.

“Rhode Island’s economy and way of life depend on a healthy, resilient coastline,” said Whitehouse, a co-chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus and the author of the National Oceans and Coastal Security Act that created a dedicated fund to protect our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes.  “From the Hurricane of 1938 to Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Rhode Islanders know all too well the sort of damage severe weather and rising sea levels can inflict on our state.  This funding will help Rhode Islanders learn more about the effects of changes in our oceans and climate, and harden our defenses against the hazards we can expect along our coasts.”

“As the frequency of severe storms continues to increase, and the impact of these storms intensifies, it is imperative that we develop long-term plans to fortify our coastline and mitigate the effects of major weather events,” said Congressman Jim Langevin.  “This Coastal Resilience Grant will help us to study and better understand current and future weather trends, and adapt accordingly in a way that protects our coastal infrastructure and makes Rhode Island more resilient.” 

“This federal funding will ensure that Rhode Island will be well prepared for the impacts of climate change, from fortifying local and state infrastructure to better understanding the long term effects of severe weather events.  I am proud to join with my colleagues in announcing this grant that will allow state and regional researchers to develop strategies to address and adapt to changes to our coastlines,” said Cicilline.

“Developing a real time surge forecasting system will help the state better prepare for storm impacts.  The green infrastructure part of the study will give property owners new tools to lessen the impacts of erosion.  Both of these studies will contribute to the states resiliency efforts.  We are excited to have successfully competed in the nation competition and be one of the funding award winners,” said Grover Fugate, Executive Director of the CRMC.

The project will be conducted by state coastal management and environmental agencies and university researchers from the Northeast Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS).  It will document and project the effects of severe storms on coastal communities, including modeling how floods would inundate coastal areas.  It will also look at how coastal infrastructure employing natural, sustainable building techniques and materials can help protect people in Rhode Island and along the New England coastline from ocean and coastal hazards. 

NERACOOS includes researchers from URI, the University of Maine, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and the University of Connecticut’s Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation.  CRMC will also participate in the project as part of the Northeast Regional Ocean Council.

The funding is provided through a second phase of grants awarded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Ocean Service’s Regional Coastal Resilience (RCR) Grant program, which provides grants to help safeguard coastal communities from climate hazards, extreme weather, and changes in our oceans.  In total, for fiscal years 2015 and 2016, NOAA awarded $9 million to 12 projects representing all regions of the country. 

According to the National Ocean Economics Program, Rhode Island’s ocean economy – which includes sectors like marine transportation, recreation and tourism, marine construction, ship and boat building, and other ocean-related economic activity – generated $2.1 billion in 2013.  The ocean economy employs over 41,000 Rhode Islanders, according to the most recently available data.  NOAA reports coastal and ocean-based businesses account for more than $7.6 trillion gross domestic product nationwide. 


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