PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is encouraging coastal communities to apply for federal funding to strengthen their defenses against severe weather and flooding.

The Rhode Island Democrat says $29 million is available from the National Coastal Resilience Fund.

He says universities, nonprofits and governments should use this opportunity to prepare coastal communities. Whitehouse and Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, wrote the legislation creating the fund.

About $29 million was allocated nationwide during the inaugural round of funding last year.

The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council received $280,000 to identify sites along the state's coastline that are vulnerable to sea level rise and design projects to protect them.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation manage the fund. Preliminary proposals are due May 20.

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