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North Kingstown at forefront of climate change awareness

March 29, 2013

North Kingstown is the subject of a URI study looking at the potential impacts of sea level rise, including increased damage during storm events. Here, Hurricane Sandy batters the sea wall in Narragansett. (Photo By Shaun Kirby)

Town teams up with URI to better understand sea level rise

NORTH KINGSTOWN—At Monday evening’s town council meeting, Teresa Crean of the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center (CRC) presented the town with an initiative that research group has been working on in conjunction with the town’s planning department. Last year, the CRC received a $100,000 grant to develop a program which examined sea level rise and associated climate change effects in North Kingstown.

“We have been working with CRMC, DOT and many others in looking at the impacts of sea level rise and climate change,” said Director of Planning Jon Reiner. “A couple of years ago, I was asked to go down to Washington by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to speak on this matter. Municipalities need to address this issue now, and the big push is for us to put together the model plan for [sea level rise] within our new comprehensive plan, which we will be rewriting within the next few months.”
Crean gave the council an overview of the project’s current and future phases of research. In 2011, CRC performed data collection of the town’s coastline and created elevation maps which display historical storm water marks, such as for the Hurricane of 1938, as well as predicting future sea levels. Such efforts have been used to identify areas of possible vulnerability as sea levels rise.
Crean also praised the collaboration with town staff on this new pilot program.
“North Kingstown was chosen because it has a good diversity of land uses along its coastline, as well as direct impacts of tidal inundation in the town center,” said Crean. “Climate change is really on [North Kingstown’s] doorstep, and your staff, Jon and his crew, is really savvy. They were able to get this work done on time with limited planning resources.”
According to a report released last fall by the CRC and URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography, sea level rises are projected to increase by three to five feet by 2100, and possibly a one foot rise by 2050. Since 1930, sea level along Rhode Island’s coastline has increased by an average of an inch a decade.
Phase two, which is ongoing, aims to help North Kingstown in developing its natural hazards and climate change element in the upcoming comprehensive plan update. $15,000 of the total $100,000 Statewide Planning Challenge Grant will be dedicated to the town for phase two.
The initiative will also produce a list of prioritized transportation and land use projects which would benefit from the climate change adaption program and can be incorporated into the state’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), as well as the town’s capital improvements.
“The idea here is to begin understanding the current conditions and potential long term planning impacts of sea level rise and to proactively adapt to changing conditions,” said Crean. “This is not fear-based, but we are looking at the best available science to assist the municipalities in Rhode Island.”
CRC is currently holding public information sessions throughout North Kingstown over the next several months as the project continues. The next public meeting will be held at the North Kingstown Public Library on April 18, 6 to 8 p.m.
“The objectives of this [initiative] are to work with the town to look at all the impacted infrastructure and properties under these different scenarios,” said Crean. “We are looking to bring certain resources to the town so that you are designing for future conditions based on the best available science we have.”
“There has been great collaboration and everyone is really excited to see what happens in North Kingstown as we move this forward,” she added.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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