PROVIDENCE — Work to restore and improve some 30 acres of damaged salt marsh habitat in and around Ninigret Pond, and development of a flood and storm damage management plan for the Pawcatuck River watershed are among seven projects to be funded by $7.55 million in federal funding under the Superstorm Sandy grant program. Some of the fuinding will help the Narragansett Tribe create a plan to protect its land and water resources from future storms and climate change.
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed announced the funding earlier this week, noting that this latest round of grants from the U.S. Department of the Interior is part of an estimated $130 million in support from federal disaster relief programs to help Rhode Island recover from Sandy.
The Rhode Island programs that won competitive grants, which are administered by the U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), include:
Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC): $3,250,000
The project will restore and enhance approximately 30 acres of degraded salt marsh habitat within the Ninigret Pond barrier and coastal lagoon complex by the placement and dispersal of dredged material on the marsh surface to increase surface elevations. Increasing marsh surface elevations and replanting the restored areas will in turn enhance salt marsh vegetation, increasing the lifespan and resiliency of the marsh complex to future coastal storms and increased rates of sea level rise induced by climate change. This will allow the marsh to continue to function as a storm surge buffer and flood storage area. It will also preserve and extend the marsh’s many functions and values that support the tourism, recreation, fishing and boating industries that are crucial to the economic wellbeing of the surrounding communities. Funds may also be used to assess opportunities for additional projects in two other ponds. The state will provide $423,650 in matching funds for this project.
Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association: $720,000 (RI & CT)
The Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association (WPWA) will work with project partners to develop a comprehensive flood and storm damage resiliency management plan for the Pawcatuck River watershed. The project will benefit communities in Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, Stonington, and Westerly and help protect critical community infrastructure.
Narragansett Tribe: $180,000
The Tribe will conduct a Natural Resource Resiliency Assessment and Action Plan (NRRAAP). An assessment of forest health, natural resources, and water resources for tribal lands will help provide tools to the tribal community that can help them develop resiliency to impacts of future storms and climate change including resistance to greater precipitation events resulting in more sever hurricanes and tropical storms and larger flood events. Forest resource assessments are needed to evaluate the extent of damage that has occurred to the natural ecosystems and to identify options for the protection and recovery of natural and cultural resources related to Sandy, the March 2010 flood and future climate change impacts. Field surveys of tree species, size, vigor, and downed debris are proposed to capture degree and expression of windfall and surge damage on coastal maritime and tidal freshwater forests of Tribal Lands impacted by Sandy. The benefit of the NRRAAP for the Tribe, watershed, and the local communities will provide a foundation for future resiliency. The Tribe will provide a $60,206 match.
Additionally, Rhode Island will receive a share of federal funding from the following multi-state partnership projects:
Town of Middletown: $2,320,000
The Sachuest Bay Coastal Resiliency Project will improve coastal resiliency of the Sachuest Bay/Maidford River area through biodiversity restoration and green infrastructure enhancement, specifically by improving water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and such natural infrastructure as beach dunes, and by greening and improving such existing grey infrastructure elements as power lines and road networks. These improvements will preserve such vital ecological assets as wetland and estuarine habitat, and will safeguard such key human resources as drinking water, swimming, fishing, surfing, wildlife watching, and beach-going opportunities. The program will also engage students and volunteers in the field work and subsequent monitoring, while at the same time conducting an extensive outreach campaign to educate community members about behavioral changes they can adopt to protect and nourish the natural ecosystem – so that it, in turn, can protect the community from future weather related stress. The town will provide $1,066,913 in matching funds for this project.
URI’s coastal resiliency project will inform and build upon the Beach SAMP effort. It will initiate the detailed baseline characterization of the south shore area of Rhode Island and facilitate the construction of a coastal observing/monitoring network for the area that will provide detailed and accurate data inputs/boundary conditions for a suite of coastal modeling/engineering tools intended to provide outputs that will underpin management policies/practices aimed at enhancement of coastal resiliency in Rhode Island. This project represents the initial step in developing a statewide program for enhancing coastal resiliency that will be a national model. Furthermore, this project will be the initial step in creating a clearing-house for best practices in coastal adaptation to enhance resiliency that will be available to cities/municipalities and the general public. The state will provide a $358,622 match.
URI will use this federal funding for the “Rhode Island Coastal Community Resiliency Planning with Green Infrastructure Guidance” project, which focuses on three Rhode Island coastal communities: the cities of Newport and Warwick and the town of North Kingstown. These communities have varied shoreline issues, but all share interest in trying to find ways to incorporate green infrastructure techniques and principles into their local planning and procedures. These communities are committed to partnering with the project team of the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center (CRC), Rhode Island Sea Grant College Program (RISG), the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association (RINLA), Save the Bay (STB), and the University of New Hampshire Stormwater Center to understand how green infrastructure activities can be used to increase resiliency and inform adaptation planning at the local level. The project aims to share their products and recommendations with other coastal municipalities in Rhode Island and ensure that it is easily replicable for coastal communities in New England and beyond.
No matching funds required.
Association of State Floodplain Managers: $350,000 (RI & OH)
Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFMP) will develop best practices for coastal resilience that can help communities reduce flood risk and flood insurance rates under FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS) while protecting the environment. Once the best practices are established, ASFPM will conduct workshops in RI and OH to help communities understand and implement these best practices. The application was supported by the RI Emergency Management Agency.
Rhode Island will also be eligible to participate in two, multi-state programs. One of these is funded with a $520,000 grant intended to help increase the accessibility and usability of information needed for understanding the effects of Superstorm Sandy and improving preparedness and response for future extreme storm events. The other will make use of a $470,000 grant to the New Jersey Audobon Society to help safeguard societal and ecological values of coastal impoundments from storm surges and sea level rise, evaluate their vulnerability and identify restoration options that enhance resilience.
Reed, the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Environment, helped set aside $100 million for the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program as part of the $829.2 million he included for the U.S. Department of the Interior in the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. The U.S. Department of Interior received over 375 proposals nationwide for a total of $568 million for these competitive Sandy Coastal Resiliency Grants. This week, 54 projects will be awarded nationwide.
“This is great news for Rhode Island,” Reed said. “These grants will help protect residents from future storms and enable communities to plan and implement a number of natural infrastructure projects. We need to work together to make our cities, towns and critical habitat more resilient to coastal hazards, hurricanes, flooding and sea level rise. This was a rigorous competition and I commend all the organizations that won these grants.”
Last fall, Reed helped coordinate a workshop with federal officials and interested parties in Narragansett to help Rhode Island organizations successfully compete for this funding.
To date, Reed and members of the state’s Congressional delegation have helped direct an estimated $130 million in support from federal disaster relief programs to help Rhode Island recover from Sandy.