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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Getting ready for the next big one and the one after that...

URI researchers win post-Sandy grants to foster a storm-ready Rhode Island

Professor King on the job (EcoRI photo)
NARRAGANSETT, R.I. –Researchers at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography are among several Rhode Island groups awarded federal funds for projects to make the state more resilient to flooding and erosion caused by storms and sea level rise. 

An $870,000 grant to Oceanography Professor John King will enable him to collect new data to inform the developing Rhode Island Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan (Beach SAMP), a regulatory plan that will guide how coastal communities prepare for, and adapt to, storms and encroaching ocean water as seas rise. 

"Predictions of the impact of global climate change on Rhode island in this century are tied to the amount that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide will increase in the future, and range from bad to catastrophic,” said King. “However in Rhode Island we currently have very limited ability to monitor, assess, and predict the severity of current and future impacts in coastal areas. This project is the initial step in putting a state-of-the-art coastal erosion and sea-level rise monitoring and impact prediction program into place for the state."

A second grant totaling $400,000 was awarded to the URI Coastal Resources Center, which is also affiliated with the Rhode Island Sea Grant College Program, to help the local municipalities of Newport, North Kingstown and Warwick prepare for climate change by adding green infrastructure -- techniques that build on the natural ability of vegetation, soil and rocks to slow and/or absorb water -- to their planning approaches.

"Leveraging the natural abilities of a shoreline to adapt to more water -- be it from storms or sea level rise -- is increasingly a direction that science and policy are examining, and we're pleased to be part of that," said Pam Rubinoff, Coastal Resources Center coastal manager, adding that the URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences, the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association, Save the Bay and the University of New Hampshire are among the partners working on the project.

The grants are part of a larger effort by the U.S. Department of the Interior to support research and restoration efforts for protecting coastal communities and shoreline areas in the aftermath of 2012's Superstorm Sandy. For this $100 million grant competition, 54 winners -- including the two to URI -- were picked from more than 375 proposals.