SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. – Work to restore threatened dunes and the associated wildlife habitat at Green Hill Pond got a major boost this week with the awarding of federal funding for the project.
The National Coastal Resilience Fund award of a $129,191 grant to the University of Rhode Island and the nonprofit Friends of Green Hill Pond was announced Nov. 19 by U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, (D-R.I.).
URI and Friends of Green Hill Pond will use the federal grant to design and permit plans for a nature-based dune restoration to alleviate flood risk for nearby homes and to improve water quality. The design team will also develop a plan in conjunction the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support plover nesting habitat in the area.
“We are extremely grateful that NFWF is providing funding, alongside Friends of Green Hill Pond and the University of Rhode Island, to the Green Hill Pond Dune and Habitat Restoration project,” Friends of Green Hill Pond President Dennis Bowman said. “This effort is critical to the area’s community resilience and to promote the restoration of a precious wild oyster and fishery habitat.”
An undeveloped section of the dune protecting Green Hill Pond has a relatively low profile, placing the pond, as well as nearby homes, at risk of flooding during even modest storms. Based on recent studies, the adjacent community is among the most vulnerable areas to coastal flooding in Rhode Island.
“Many coastlines across the U.S., including the southern shore of Rhode Island, are facing an accelerating rate of erosion and flooding due to sea level rise and intensification of coastal storms,” said M. Reza Hashemi, assistant professor of ocean engineering and principal investigator of the project. “The proposed integrated approach includes computer modeling, in-situ surveys, environmental studies and stakeholder engagement. It will provide valuable information for coastal communities, coastal engineers, environmental scientists, stakeholders and regulating agencies that are interested in applying living shoreline methods and dune restoration projects to coastal areas in Rhode Island and across the country.”
Reza is leading the multidisciplinary team of URI scientists from three colleges – oceanography, engineering, and environment and life sciences.
The project was championed at the local level by State Sen. Dennis Algiere, whose district includes Green Hill Pond. Algiere helped secure state funding to complete a feasibility study for the project last year, and he wrote a letter of support for the application to the National Coastal Resilience Fund.
“I am pleased that the hard work of Friends of Green Hill to bring this crucial issue to our attention has resulted in this grant,” Algiere said. “I look forward to working with them and other community groups in the future to protect our coastal communities. I am grateful to Senator Whitehouse, URI and federal partners for getting this project off the ground.”
The National Coastal Resilience Fund is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In this round, the fund will invest $37 million in 46 projects aimed at strengthening natural infrastructure to protect coastal communities and enhance fish and wildlife habitat.
Past projects that have received funding from the National Coastal Resilience Fund include the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s restoration of habitat along Quonochontaug Pond and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council’s research and planning effort to prevent flooding along Rhode Island’s coastline.
“Restoration of the dunes and habitat surrounding Green Hill Pond will boost one of the area’s first lines of defense against flooding,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Scientists predict that rising sea levels will encroach on Rhode Island’s coastline in the years ahead, so I’m working to prepare homes and businesses now by delivering funding for projects like this one.”