How the Green Bond will allow R.I. to invest in climate resilience

Labor Day is usually a time for celebration, picnics, and outdoor activities but this year, a narrow band of intense precipitation unleashed a truly epic deluge on Providence, Cranston, and nearby communities. Over the span of a few hours, 11 inches of rain fell, inundating and closing portions of I-95, Route 10, and local roadways, resulting in a nightmare for drivers and holiday-goers. In addition, many cars and homes were flooded causing extensive property damage.

Just two weeks prior, a similar deluge dumped 4 inches of rain on East Providence, turning a portion of I-195 near the Washington Bridge into a pond, closing the highway and causing severe traffic headaches for drivers.

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The average Rhode Islanders’ response to this weather has been a quite reasonable: “That’s a wicked lot of rain!”

The unfortunate reality, however, is that due to climate change, these extreme weather events are happening more and more frequently. Climate change is contributing to more intense storms that produce more rain, and, in conjunction with rising sea levels, is increasing the frequency and intensity of flooding events.

This is the new reality, yet much of our state’s infrastructure was put in place decades ago, and often in areas at a high risk of flooding during severe storms. That is why now is the time for Rhode Island to invest in climate resilience and adaptation by upgrading and adapting our infrastructure to better withstand the impacts of climate change.

On Nov. 8, Rhode Island voters have the opportunity to do just that by approving the Question 3 Green Bond to allocate $50 million for municipal resilience, open space, and environmental restoration projects across the state.

Since the 2018 release of the statewide resiliency strategy, Resilient Rhody, Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank has been helping our cities and towns develop more resilient infrastructure through our Municipal Resilience Program. Using a collaborative workshop process, we work with our municipal partners to identify vulnerable infrastructure assets and develop prioritized plans to invest in more resilient solutions.

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To date, we’ve partnered with 27 cities and towns and invested $7.5 million in action grants to bring 49 projects to reality, while mobilizing an additional $6 million for other resilience projects. Projects like planting trees to increase shade, reduce urban heat islands, and better manage storm water in Cumberland; investing in green parklets and green storm water infrastructure around the new Pawtucket-Central Falls commuter rail station; installing a bioretention system in Warwick’s Oakland Beach neighborhood to reduce flooding and minimize bacterial pollution in Greenwich Bay; and utilizing green infrastructure solutions to reduce flooding in North Kingstown’s Wickford Village.

Voting yes on Question 3 on November’s ballot will approve $16 million to invest in similar municipal resilience projects across the state. Investments and infrastructure projects that will increase resilience, while also supporting thousands of construction and related 21st century jobs and the economic impact they create.

Voting yes on Question 3 will also approve $5 million for the creation of a new Small Business Energy Loan Program to allow Rhode Island’s small businesses to access low-cost financing to complete energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that save money, reduce emissions, and help the state meet Act on Climate mitigation goals. Projects like installing a 200 kilowatt rooftop solar array at McQuade’s Ace Hardware in Westerly, financed through an Infrastructure Bank tool very similar to the new Small Business Energy Loan Program. McQuade’s new solar installation will reduce energy costs by more than $1 million dollars over the life of the system and reduce carbon emissions equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 300 single family homes.

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Through our municipal resilience, renewable energy, and energy efficiency programs, we’re making smart investments in our cities, towns, and small businesses. That’s why we’re asking Rhode Islanders to vote yes on Question 3 to supercharge our work to build a more Resilient Rhody.

Jeffrey Diehl is CEO of Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank.

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