December 6, 2022

RI Delegation Announces $1.25 Million for Resiliency Upgrades Along Woonasquatucket River

City of Providence and Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council receive grants from Whitehouse-created National Coastal Resilience Fund

Providence, RI – U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today announced that the City of Providence and the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council have been awarded two grants totaling $1.25 million to strengthen resiliency and improve water and habitat quality along the Woonasquatucket River watershed.  The federal grant comes from the National Coastal Resilience Fund, which was developed by Whitehouse to restore and strengthen the natural infrastructure protecting coastal communities.

“These strategic federal investments will advance resiliency upgrades to the Providence Riverwalk and enhance conservation efforts along the Woonasquatucket River,” said Senator Reed.

“I created the National Coastal Resilience Fund to serve as a dedicated funding stream to help communities in the Ocean State prepare for rising waterways and more intense storms caused by climate change,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “I’m very happy to see this funding go toward making the Woonasquatucket River watershed and Providence Riverwalk more resilient for the next generation of Rhode Islanders to enjoy.”

“As the climate crisis continues to unfold, we must take action to protect Rhode Island landmarks, like the Providence Riverwalk, and equip our frontline communities with the tools necessary to weather the increasingly harmful effects of climate change,” said Rep. Langevin.  “Senator Whitehouse has long been one of the fiercest defenders of Rhode Island’s coastal communities, and I applaud his inspiring vision for improving resiliency throughout the Woonasquatucket River watershed.”

“This $1.25 million in federal funding is a key investment in the future of the Woonasquatucket River watershed and the Providence Riverwalk,” said Congressman Cicilline.  “To ensure that generations of Rhode Islanders can continue to enjoy all that our coastal communities have to offer, we need to invest in and strengthen our natural infrastructure that is being threatened by the effects of climate change.  I’m proud to have advocated alongside my colleagues to help deliver these funds and will continue to work to ensure that our Rhode Island communities have the resources they need to address rising waters and more severe weather patterns.”

The Woonasquatucket River’s approximately fifty-one square mile watershed begins in the northwestern corner of Rhode Island and drains into the Providence River and Narragansett Bay.  The Woonasquatucket and Providence River watersheds are experiencing resiliency challenges, including flooding from stormwater and rising sea levels, poor water and habitat quality, and riverbank erosion. 

The Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council was awarded a $250,000 grant to develop nature-based watershed resilience projects.  The award will help equip residents with tools to engage in green infrastructure projects and watershed-wide flood resilience projects to protect neighborhoods from flooding and extreme heat, improve water and habitat quality, and create local jobs.  The Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council will engage frontline residents through the Council’s New Voices Program and Providence’s Racial and Environmental Justice Committee’s Green Justice Zones Program.

“The Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council is especially thrilled to be awarded funds through Senator Whitehouse’s Coastal Resilience Fund because it will allow us, for the first time, to fully collaborate with the Providence Racial and Environmental Justice Committee joining the Nuevas Voces program to the Green Justice Zone Program.  Together, we will help build the power of the leaders in Providence’s Climate Justice communities to direct investment and change in their own neighborhoods that will improve quality of life and prevent further injury and loss due to climate change.  This program will offer both funding and other support for these creative, strong, leaders,” said Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council Executive Director Alicia J. Lehrer.

In Providence, the Riverwalk and Waterplace Park are experiencing more frequent and severe flooding due to sea level rise and the Woonasquatucket River is seeing degraded water quality caused by untreated stormwater runoff.  The City of Providence was awarded $1 million from the National Coastal Resilience Fund to develop final designs to raise the Providence Riverwalk above future flood elevations, remove shoreline armoring, renaturalize riverbanks, and filter stormwater runoff.  In August, the federal delegation announced $7.8 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program to support accessibility and design improvements and resiliency upgrades to the Providence Riverwalk and Waterplace Park.

“My administration has been committed to the development and investment in the Woonasquatucket Corridor, and this grant allows the City to continue that work and help naturalize the Providence Riverwalk, improving the resilience, habitat, and quality of the Woonasquatucket River,” said Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza.  “Thank you to the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council for their partnership on this effort and our federal delegation for investing in efforts to restore and strengthen natural infrastructure here in Providence.”

The bipartisan infrastructure law passed late last year included $492 million over five years for the National Coastal Resilience Fund, which is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Defense, and private sector partners.

Since its creation in 2018, the NCRF has invested more than $277 million in 270 projects across the nation.  Past local recipients of the grant fund include the University of Rhode Island and Friends of Green Hill Pond, the Bristol County Water Authority, the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council and its partners.

Chip Unruh, (202) 224-4642

Meaghan McCabe (Whitehouse), (401) 453-5294

Matt Fidel (Langevin), (202) 631-1010

Jennifer Bell (Cicilline), (202) 365-0827

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921