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Legislation Proposes Statewide Coastal Resiliency Plan in Rhode Island

In a move to address the growing challenges posed by climate change, Representative Tina Spears and Senator Victoria Gu are championing a legislative effort – the Act on Coasts. This groundbreaking legislation mandates the creation and maintenance of a comprehensive statewide coastal resiliency plan, aiming to assess vulnerabilities, recommend mitigation strategies, and propose financing solutions for Rhode Island’s coastal regions.

“Rising sea levels aren’t just a future concern – they are a present reality,” emphasized Representative Tina Spears (D-Dist. 36 Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly). “The Act on Coasts ensures that our state’s climate resiliency plan encompasses strategic efforts to mitigate and adapt along all our coasts and waterways.”

Building on the foundations laid by the 2021 Act on Climate, which mandates a statewide climate change resiliency plan, this new legislation specifically focuses on coastal resiliency. It underscores the urgency of addressing the impacts of climate change on coastal areas by requiring the plan to be reviewed and updated every two years to keep pace with evolving coastal conditions and mitigation strategies.

Senator Victoria Gu (D-Dist. 38, Westerly, Charlestown, South Kingstown) stressed the importance of integrating various efforts into a comprehensive plan, stating, “Recent severe flooding and erosion incidents highlight the need for a unified approach. The Act on Coasts aims to integrate federal, municipal, and state efforts into an actionable and comprehensive plan.”

Introduced by Representative Tina Spears as House Bill 2024-H 7022 on January 5, Senator Victoria Gu is set to introduce an equivalent bill in the Senate. The legislation also proposes the establishment of an advisory board on coastal resiliency, comprising experts in fields such as insurance, flood management, land use planning, riverine geology, environmental organization, and real estate. This board will collaborate with the state’s Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (EC4) to guide the coastal resiliency plan, facilitating communication between EC4 and the public.

Topher Hamblett, executive director of Save The Bay, stressed the urgency of prioritizing coastal resilience, saying, “This bill puts coastal resilience on the front burner, where it belongs.” The mandated plan will incorporate existing investments from federal, state, and local governments to streamline resiliency planning efforts.

Sue AnderBois, director of climate and government relations at the Nature Conservancy, expressed support, stating, “This legislation to create and implement a plan and increase collaboration specifically to address resilience is a much-needed piece of our climate policy puzzle in Rhode Island.”

The legislation emphasizes the need for both short-term and long-term strategic thinking, balancing ongoing mitigation efforts with a forward-looking approach to adapt to climate change by 2050. Curt Spalding, principal consultant for Spalding Environment and Climate Strategies, emphasized the legislation’s importance in building resilient communities.

Rhode Island’s legislative move aligns with a regional momentum in climate mitigation planning, exemplified by Massachusetts’s ResilientMass plan. Rhode Island’s legislation aims to ensure a thoughtful and robust process for the state to adapt to climate change, as expressed by Jed Thorp, Rhode Island director with Clean Water Action.

As Rhode Island takes this significant step towards coastal resilience planning, the Act on Coasts represents a strategic response to the pressing challenges posed by climate change, safeguarding the state’s coastal regions for future generations.




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