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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Support State Bond Questions for Clean Water and Environmental Management

By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff
Commercial shellfisherman Jody King said
scallops are returning to Narragansett
Bay. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)
WARWICK — Rhode Island would be better off if it catered to early risers such as fishermen and farmers. That was part of the message at the recent campaign launch at Goddard Park for ballot questions 5 and 6.

Commercial fisherman Jody King boasted of witnessing more than 250 sunrises annually while harvesting shellfish on Narragansett Bay. Vinny Confreda, of the state’s largest vegetable farm, bragged of starting his workday by 3 a.m.
Both Rhode Islanders personified the benefits of improving the state’s water quality (Question 5) and protecting open space (Question 6).  

King, who was the only speaker at this week's event to arrive by boat, brought several bushels of littleneck clams he harvested that morning in upper Narragansett Bay. But two small scallops were his most effective props. King collected the young scallops in eelgrass off Rocky Point — a place that for decades was too polluted for shellfish to survive.
Infrastructure projects to control stormwater runoff and sewage discharge have made Narragansett Bay healthier and safer for recreation and fishing in recent years. But funds for continuing those projects are nearly depleted. Question 5 seeks $20 million for projects to improve drinking water systems and wastewater plants. Through the state’s Clean Water Finance Agency (CWFA) those funds are leveraged with matching federal money to pay for more than $200 million in infrastructure projects for cities and towns.
"Every time we improve water quality, we move that (safe) shellfishing further up (Narragansett Bay)," Anthony Simeone, director of the CWFA, said.
Question 6 asks for $20 million for bay restoration, open space protection, farmland preservation and improvements to state parks.
“If it wasn’t for the preservation of land,” Confreda said, "we wouldn’t be able to keep farming.”
“It makes Rhode Island a better place to live and a better place to do business,” said Terry Sullivan, Rhode Island director of The Nature Conservancy.
Since 1984, voters have overwhelming approved bond referendums for land and water protection. In 2010, voters passed a $13.2 million bond bill to buy land at Rocky Point, the “Shooters” property in Providence and for improvements to Fort Adams in Newport.
In 2004, 70 percent of voters approved the last broad referendum for general land and water improvements.
As local resident Suzanne Hurley walked her dog outside the carrousel at Goddard Park, she said she intended to vote Nov. 6 for protecting open space. She was displeased to see new construction going on while many commercial buildings are vacant. “While those buildings sit there empty, open space is getting paved over for new buildings," Hurley said.