November 1, 2018

Whitehouse Leads Army Corps Head on Tour of Top Rhode Island Water and Coastal Infrastructure Priorities

Senator highlights ways Corps projects can safeguard Rhode Island’s capital city and coastal communities from threats like storm surge, erosion, and sea level rise

Providence, RI – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee and champion of resilient coastal infrastructure in the Senate, led Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James to see several of Rhode Island’s top infrastructure priorities.  James leads the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in its work maintaining and improving the nation’s waterways and coastal infrastructure.  Whitehouse and James’s tour included visits and meetings with Rhode Island state and local officials, environmental leaders, and top ocean and coastal researchers to discuss some of the state’s most pressing infrastructure needs.

“Rhode Islanders rely on safe, resilient water and coastal infrastructure to defend us from threats like sea level rise and hurricanes.  That’s why the Army Corps of Engineers’ mission is so important for us,” said Whitehouse.  “The Corps works with coastal states to maintain ports and waterways, and fortify key infrastructure like the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier.  It also takes on new projects to prepare us for the storms and sea level rise that experts forecast – work to safeguard Rhode Island’s economy and way of life.  Thank you to Assistant Secretary James for visiting today, and to the Rhode Islanders who helped me highlight some of our top priorities for the Corps.”

“I am very appreciative of the invitation from Senator Whitehouse to come up to the state of Rhode Island and see the wonderful work that the Corps has done here, and look at some additional opportunities and challenges on the horizon,” James said.

As a senior member of the EPW Committee, Whitehouse plays a central role in crafting legislation to authorize the Corps’ projects.  On October 23, the president signed the latest authorization, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act, which included several provisions championed by Whitehouse to support Rhode Island projects. 

Whitehouse-James Itinerary

Providence River and Fox Point Hurricane Barrier:  The visit kicked off with a stop at the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier with officials from the City of Providence.  The barrier protects Providence under current conditions, but sea level rise and increased storm surge threaten its reliability over the long term.  Whitehouse included in this year’s water infrastructure bill a provision requiring the Corps to complete a report within one year to assess “the durability and resiliency of existing hurricane barriers and harbors of refuge in the North Atlantic Division.”  The Whitehouse report would place particular emphasis on “how such barriers and harbors will survive and fully serve their planned levels of protection under current, near, and longer term future predicted sea levels, storm surges, and storm strengths.”  While in the area, Whitehouse and James also viewed the Providence River and discussed the Corps’ current dredging schedule and other responsibilities.

URI-GSO:  Whitehouse and James met with faculty and researchers at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography (URI-GSO) in Narragansett.  They discussed opportunities for the Corps’ work to support the top-rated ocean research program. 

South Kingstown Town Beach:  Whitehouse then took James to South Kingstown Town Beach to highlight the serious threats to Rhode Island’s coastline from sea level rise and storm surge.  Under the Rhode Island Coastal Resource Management Council’s worst-case scenario, the state could see nine to 11 feet of sea level rise by 2100.  South Kingstown is one of the communities most exposed to the harms of sea level rise and storm surge.

Whitehouse Protecting Rhode Island Coast, Waterways

Whitehouse has made protecting Rhode Island’s coastline and waterways a top priority in the Senate.  He is a founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus, which has succeeded in passing a number of bills to protect our oceans, coastal resources, and fishermen.  On the EPW Committee, he has included a range of Rhode Island priorities in water infrastructure bills.  This Congress, he secured $30 million for his National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund, which will support work that helps Americans understand and adapt to forces like sea level rise, severe storms, and other coastal hazards.  And, this fall, the president signed into law his Save Our Seas Act—bipartisan legislation to address the marine debris epidemic affecting America’s oceans, shorelines, and inland waterways, as well as other coasts across the globe.



Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921