July 31, 2008

Senate Panel Approves Over $6 Million for Rhode Island in New Energy Technology and Water Conservation Bill

Reed and Whitehouse Include Funding for Key Rhode Island Energy and Flood Prevention Projects

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today announced that the Appropriations Committee has approved legislation including $3.05 million in funding for Rhode Island alternative energy, flood prevention, and water restoration initiatives they requested as part of the 2009 Energy and Water Development spending bill. The bill also includes $3 million that Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, secured for key programs throughout the state.

“Reliable, affordable energy is critical to the economic well-being of our nation and central to our national security. This bill contains $1.5 million in federal funding to help researchers at URI develop smart energy solutions that could eventually provide consumers with greater access to cheaper, cleaner, renewable energy solutions,” said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. “This federal funding will help restore Rhode Island’s coastal habitats and clean up our waterways. It will also help ensure that our communities have infrastructure in place to protect local business and homes from flooding.”

“These funds are a wise investment in Rhode Island’s treasured coastlines,” said Whitehouse. “I was proud to work with Jack Reed to secure the support of the federal government for our efforts to harness the power of renewable energy, keep our hurricane barriers strong and secure, and improve access to our waterways.”

Reed and Whitehouse secured funding in the 2009 Energy and Water Development spending bill for several key Rhode Island projects, including:

$1.25 million for Point Judith Harbor of Refuge Dredging

This federal funding will allow for dredging to be completed in the entrance channel, East and West Branch channels, and the 10 foot anchorage of the Point Judith Harbor of Refuge Federal Navigation Project (FNP). Shoaling has impacted safe navigation in and out of the harbor at lower stages of the tide.

$700,000 for Renewable Energy Resources Evaluation and Planning — Rhode Island Coastal Resource Management Council

The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) will use these federal funds to develop an Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP). This plan will help evaluate and develop Rhode Island’s offshore renewable energy capabilities.

$500,000 for the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier

This federal funding will be used by the Army Corp of Engineers to operate and maintain the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier in Providence.

$300,000 for Providence Dredging and Sediment Management

This federal funding will help evaluate the waterway which Providence’s 175,000 residents and 900,000 visitors enjoy for river-related events, including the nationally renowned WaterFire.

$300,000 for Woonsocket Flood Protection Project

The Blackstone River Flood Protection Project is a key component of the city of Woonsocket and the Blackstone Valley’s flood management plan. This federal funding will be used for the project’s continued operation and maintenance.

Additionally, Reed secured funding in the bill for the following Rhode Island initiatives:

$1.5 million for the University of Rhode Island’s Project Golden Switchgrass

The University of Rhode Island (URI) will use this federal funding to research the genetic improvement of switchgrass for biofuel production. Development of the national capacity to utilize plant cellulose as a renewable source of biofuel could provide independence from foreign oil; a cleaner source of energy for road fuel to diminish greenhouse gas emissions; benefit Rhode Island’s agricultural economy by providing an important new source of income for farmers; allow for more productive use of land; and preserve the natural environment.

$750,000 for Block Island Old Harbor and New Harbor Dredging

$500,000 of this federal funding will be used to dredge the Old Harbor entrance channel and $250,000 will be used to dredge the New Harbor entrance channel. Shoaling has occurred in the channels, narrowing them and limiting their depth, which has affected the harbor’s ability to accommodate as many vessels. These vessels play a considerable role in supporting the tourism economy of Block Island.

$750,000 for the South Coastal Rhode Island Sediment Management

The south shore of Rhode Island is a headland/barrier system that extends for approximately thirty kilometers from Watch Hill to Point Judith. Residential and commercial properties, local infrastructure, and ecological resources and habitats are threatened by erosion. This federal funding will be used for mapping efforts to track the sediment management system and allow for comprehensive hazard reduction planning.

Passing this bill out of the full Appropriations Committee is a critical first step in the lengthy appropriations process, which may not be completed until next year. The bill must now clear the Senate and also be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. It then goes to the President’s desk and would have to be signed into law. President Bush has threatened to veto this bill as he did last year with other critical domestic spending packages.

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