R.I. coastal resiliency set to receive $691K in federal funding

PROVPORT AND NARRAGANSETT BAY coastal areas will receive around $691,000 in federal coastal resiliency funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. / COURTESY PROVPORT INC.

PROVIDENCE – The Port of Providence shoreline and Narragansett Bay are set to benefit from an approximately $691,000 federal funding to support coastal resiliency and rehabilitation.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a U.S. Department of Commerce agency, on April 21 announced the recommended financial award to Rhode Island as part of the federal Climate-Ready Coasts initiative.

While still officially a recommendation, this language “is standard procedure for grant funding through NOAA,” said spokesperson Kate Silverstein. While the exact dollar figure may shift slightly, “we expect that the funding will be obligated to project partners in the next few weeks,” Silverstein noted.

The recommended allotment includes $482,000 toward the Port of Providence, and $199,000 to the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

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On Tuesday, Gov. Daniel J. McKee, U.S. Secretary of Commerce and former R.I. Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, and state congressional and environmental leaders convened virtually to highlight the proposed environmental award, as well as other recent funding directed toward climate and community resources.

As the Ocean State, Rhode Island is “uniquely vulnerable to the challenges of climate change,” Raimondo said, “and to that end, we are making unprecedented investments in our coastal communities.”  

The proposed ProvPort allocation, sourced from the program’s Coastal Habitat Restoration and Resilience Grants for Underserved Communities, would fund a technical analysis to assess shoreline conditions and identify potential opportunities for habitat restoration, according to the NOAA, with feedback from community members most impacted by Port of Providence activities.

The portion proposed for the the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System Habitat Protection and Restoration Grants, would support design and permitting for projects that protect the bay’s significant coastal wetland habitats.

This work would make room for three marsh and shoreline habitats to move upland, through measures such as rerouting coastal roads and removing infrastructure that could inhibit marsh migration.

The Biden administration Climate-Ready Coasts initiative sets aside almost $6 billion to coastal efforts nationally, with funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.

Eligible programs include “high-impact projects that create climate solutions by storing carbon; build resilience to coastal hazards such as extreme weather events, pollution and marine debris; restore coastal habitats that help wildlife and humans thrive; build the capacity of underserved communities and support community-driven restoration; and provide employment opportunities,” according ot the NOAA.

At the Tuesday afternoon web presentation, state leaders also highlighted other climate initiatives, such as an $82.5 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant awarded in support of upgrades to the Newport Claiborne Pell Bridge last fall.

John Torgan, director of the Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island, said that the Ocean State will continue to require a “robust federal funding pipeline” to address increased flooding, pollution, severe weather events and other climate change impacts.  

This work will also require strong state-level support for municipalities, McKee said.

“As a former mayor … I know that limited resources crimp the possibilities that we want to make sure happen for the people who live in our cities and towns,” he states. 

“These investment programs do not work for our municipalities if the state does not work together to support them,” McKee added. 

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.

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