June 4, 2009

RI to Receive $2.3 Million in Federal Funding for Flood Protection

WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to create jobs, restore habitat, and mitigate flooding along the Pawtuxet, Pocasset, and Meshanticut Rivers, Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation today announced that the state will receive over $2.3 million through the federal Recovery Act for flood protection projects in Cranston and West Warwick. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Rhode Island will receive over $1.95 million to purchase easements and conduct restoration at 4 sites and approximately $400,000 to design, engineer, and obtain permitting for these projects. The money is flowing to the state as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was supported by U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representatives Patrick Kennedy and Jim Langevin, and signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009.

Restoring floodplains to a natural state ensures they function properly. These easements will help conserve Rhode Island’s open spaces; restore fish and wildlife habitats; improve water quality; reduce long-term federal disaster assistance; and safeguard lives and property from floods, drought, and erosion.

“This federal funding will preserve open space and protect more homes and businesses in Cranston and West Warwick against future flooding,” said Reed, who wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on May 1, 2009, encouraging USDA to fund these projects. “These projects will put over 100 people to work in survey, construction, and engineering jobs and help restore and benefit Rhode Island’s natural landscape.”

“In a densely populated state like Rhode Island, protecting open spaces and natural habitats is our best defense against flooding and other natural disasters,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) committee. “This economic recovery funding will create jobs and restore acres of damaged landscapes to their natural state.”

“These easements are great news for the entire state of Rhode Island,” said Kennedy. “Today’s announcement paves the way for job creation and restoration of the ecosystems that are fundamental to Rhode Island’s heritage.”

“I commend Cranston and West Warwick for aggressively seeking this funding that will restore damaged land as well as create jobs,” said Langevin. “This combined effort of cities and towns working together with the federal government to get our state back on track is exactly what the stimulus was intended to do.”

ARRA floodplain funding for Rhode Island includes:

$984,550 in Recovery funds for Cranston to purchase two easements – an 80-acre easement and a 22-acre easement – that will reconnect the Pawtuxet River to its floodplain by removing dikes and reestablishing aquatic plant species. The 80-acre easement will create 29 jobs, benefit 100 acres, and alleviate repetitive flood damage claims to 16 industrial/residential properties. The 22-acre easement will create 25 jobs and benefit 30 acres.

$539,475 in Recovery funds for Cranston to purchase a 30-acre easement as part of the Pocasset River Watershed Study to mitigate flooding by removing floodplain fill and restoring the historic stream channel. This project will create 30 jobs, benefit 89 acres, and help protect 67 residential properties that suffer repetitive flood damages. Senator Reed has secured more than $500,000 in federal funding for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a watershed plan to address flooding in Pocasset Watershed.

$431,975 in Recovery funds for West Warwick to purchase a 5-acre easement that will help restore a tributary to the Meshanticut River by removing a dike, removing inadequate culverts and debris, and restoring a stream channel and flood plain wetlands. This project will create 23 jobs, benefit 27 acres, and protect 8 houses that have sustained repetitive damages from flooding during storm events.

The USDA received $145 million in Recovery Act funding and selected 289 applicants nationwide to acquire floodplain easements covering more than 36,000 acres of land in 36 states. All applications were submitted voluntarily and rigorously screened to ensure they met specific criteria before selection, such as the impact and connectivity of streams and floodplains; their proximity to wetlands and wildlife habitat; and the likelihood of generating jobs through restoration activities.

The Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program’s floodplain easement component allows NRCS to acquire permanent easements on private land, or certain land owned by units of state and local governments, that have been damaged by flooding at least once in the last 12 months or twice in the past 10 years. Once the easements have been established, NRCS will fund conservation work necessary to restore the land to its natural state.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921