Washington – One year after Superstorm Sandy wielded its wrath and destruction upon Rhode Island’s coastal communities, the state’s congressional delegation garnered millions of dollars in additional support for reconstruction and recovery efforts directed to Rhode Island communities by way of multiple federal grant programs.
HUD funds bring $16M to local communities
“One year ago, Hurricane Sandy pummeled the coast of Rhode Island, wreaking havoc on our coasts and causing millions of dollars in damage,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, in a press release last week. “I’m proud to announce this $16 million dollar grant, which will help Rhode Island communities recover from the devastating effects of the storm.”
The $16 million disaster recovery funding, part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program was approved for use in infrastructure upgrades throughout receiving communities, as well as home, business and public facility repairs.
A combined effort of Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, as well as U.S. Congressmen David Cicilline and James Langevin, the CDBG-DR funding to Rhode Island, grown to more than $19 million since Sandy’s impact on the state’s coastal and inland communities was assessed, allows individual communities a wide berth in determining their restoration needs. Although slated for restoration of primary housing and infrastructure, the grants also encourage use for economic revitalization in disaster-impacted areas.
Department of Interior shores up coastal and inland waterway restoration efforts
In an announcement on October 24, Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell lauded the award of $162 million in funding for Atlantic Coast communities, targeted to be invested in 45 restoration and research projects. The slate of projects included the restoration of marshes, wetlands, beaches, and the rebuilding of coastal shorelines. Funds were also supportive of research studies on storm surge impact and mitigation modeling.
“What we witnessed during Hurricane Sandy was that our public lands and other natural areas are often the best defense against Mother Nature,” Jewell said in a release. “By stabilizing marshes and beaches, restoring wetlands, and improving the resiliency of coastal areas, we not only create opportunities for people to connect with nature and support jobs through increased outdoor recreation, but we can also provide an effective buffer that protects local communities from powerful storm surges and devastating floods when a storm like Sandy hits.”
FWS Atlantic Coast projects to support RI ecosystems
Rhode Island communities are targeted for multiple projects and interstate sharing of DOI funding through proposals sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
A dam removal project, estimated at $2.3 million is outlined for Rhode Island and Connecticut. The objective, to restore connectivity, enhance fish passage and reduce the risk of flooding during future storm events is expected to remove the White Rock Dam (Ashaway) and Bradford dams along the Pawcatuck River, as well as the Shady Lee Mill Dam (North Kingstown) on the Mattatux River. Included is the installation of one fishway on the Pawcatuck and a natural riparian area in North Kingstown.
The dam removal and fish passage installation on the rivers is expected to promote the restoration of habitat and reduce flooding during large storms. Socioeconomic benefits of the dam project were calculated at over $11 million.
Whitehouse applauded the actions of DOI in a statement after the announcement. Referencing a $4.1 million project shared with the states of Massachusetts and Maine, the statement said, “The state will also share funds with other affected states to help pay for additional projects, including 400 acres of salt marsh restoration in the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge in Charlestown and Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Middletown in an effort to strengthen natural coastal barriers and infrastructure.”
Additional Atlantic coastal projects involving Rhode Island include the continuation of topographical surveys, data collection and analysis in watershed and ecosystems adversely affected by Superstorm Sandy. The projects concentrate on identifying Sandy’s effects and changes to coastal environments in an effort to strengthen future mitigation and conservation planning.
Storm surge and erosion protection at the forefront
Storm surge impact and evaluation studies in coastal states, including Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maine, Maryland, Delaware, New York and Virginia make up more than $5.7 million in DOI funding. Storm surge projects benefit affected communities through the support of “high quality storm surge and erosion protection, infrastructure protection, commercial and recreational fisheries production, hunting, bird-watching, boating, and local tourism,” said a report from DOI.
Sea level rise and climate change included
An additional $1.7 million Rhode Island inclusive funding was allotted to the efforts of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCC) in identifying and determining through data analysis, areas in need of coastal ecosystem conservation, mitigation, restoration, flood abatement and management due to storm surge and sea level rise.
Narrow River funding focused on salt marsh health
The Rhode Island National Wildlife Complex in Charlestown garnered $4 million in funding through the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program for the improvement of salt marshes and maritime shrublands – the funding to be dedicated to projects along the Narrow and Maidforth Rivers.
According to information on the organization’s Facebook page, the Narrow River project objectives focused “on determining the current health and condition of salt marsh habitats and coastal shrub communities.” Restoration and improvement of habitat productivity are also identified as organizational goals.
On the Maidforth River in Middletown, the study and resolution of river plugging and flooding issues are targeted.
DOI and FWS open $100 million competitive grant opportunity
On Tuesday, DOI began accepting request for proposals for an additional $100 million in competitive grant funding through the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program. The program, administered by FWS, supports innovative mitigation projects that increase coastal resiliency, the capacity to withstand future storm damage and to restore and rebuild public assets across the Sandy-affected region. The grants are supportive of projects that create resilient habitats and promote green space.