ecoRI News in Brief


Compiled by ecoRI News staff

April 18, 2024

RIPTA Survey Says Rate Your Satisfaction

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority invites the public to participate in its 12th annual Customer Satisfaction Survey. Passengers, whether they ride frequently or infrequently, are invited to take the online survey, which is available through May 5. The survey is available in English and Spanish. Each participant will be eligible for the chance to win a RIPTA prize pack that will include $70 of bus fare value on a Wave account.

RIPTA is proud to be one of 19 transit agencies nationwide offering the survey this year, prepared by the American Bus Benchmarking Group. The group is a consortium representing mid-sized transit agencies that are seeking to improve their operations by working collaboratively and measuring each other against uniform performance measures. The combined result of the surveys from the participating transit agencies will help establish best practices in public transit.

April 15, 2024

R.I. Food Policy Council Wants to Improve Municipal Composting

The Rhode Island Food Policy Council is seeking a contractor to support outreach to the state’s 39 municipalities to assess their interest in initiating or expanding food scrap composting.

The Central Landfill in Johnston is projected to reach full capacity in 10-15 years. Among the waste being buried in the landfill annually includes about 100,000 tons of food scrap, making this resource one of the top materials being dumped in Rhode Island’s waste stream.

When organic waste such as food scrap is buried and starts decomposing, it releases methane — a greenhouse gas that is much more dangerous than carbon dioxide for the climate.

Concurrently, there is a strong and growing need for high-quality compost that can improve the state’s soil fertility.

The Rhode Island Food Policy Council wants to grow municipal food scrap composting volumes by supporting cities and towns in learning about and implementing food diversion strategies.

April 13, 2024

North Atlantic Right Whale Spotted Entangled in Fishing Gear Off Block Island

An April 9 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aerial survey reported an entangled North Atlantic right whale swimming about 50 miles south of Block Island. The whale has been identified as adult male #4143. He was first seen as a calf in 2011 and most recently seen gear-free in Cape Cod Bay in March.

Right whale #4143 has rope coming out of both sides of its mouth. The rope also trails beyond the flukes, but the rope does not wrap around the whole body, according to NOAA. The federal agency noted the whale’s overall condition is good, and he was observed feeding during the aerial sighting.

Given the long distance from shore, marine experts were unable to safely travel to the last known location of the whale during daylight to attempt a rescue. NOAA Fisheries and its partners will monitor this whale and attempt to respond to the entanglement, if possible, as weather and safety conditions allow.

After reviewing this new entanglement, NOAA Fisheries biologists have made a preliminary determination that it meets the unusual mortality event criteria as a morbidity (sublethal injury) case. Right whale #4143 is the 126th right whale and 52nd morbidity case in the ongoing North Atlantic right whale unusual mortality event.

So far this year four North Atlantic right whales have been confirmed dead — one likely from entanglement in fishing gear confirmed to be from Maine and three from vessel strikes.

“We can hardly get through a week without hearing about yet another North Atlantic right whale killed or struggling to survive amid the deadly obstacles we throw at these animals,” said Ben Grundy, oceans campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I’m so tired of watching right whales go extinct in real time from painful and predictable threats like fishing gear entanglement, while the federal government does almost nothing. The fishing industry has no excuse for refusing to cooperate on this problem and legislators should stop falling for bogus arguments and enact protections for right whales immediately.”

April 8, 2024

$54 Million in Federal Grants to Fund R.I. Transportation Upgrades, Climate Resiliency Projects

The state of Rhode Island will be receiving four grants totaling $54,750,800 from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-saving Transportation grant program.

The grants were awarded to help fund the installation of a dehumidification system on the cables and anchors of the Mount Hope Bridge; the restoration of the Newport Cliff Walk; the development of a coastal management plan for the town of Warren’s Market to Metacom project; and nature-based, climate resiliency stormwater projects at 97 locations across the state.

The grant program was funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and was designed to help ensure transportation resilience to natural hazards, including climate change, sea level rise, flooding, and extreme weather. The application period for this program closed in August.

Here’s a look at how the grant funding is expected to be used:

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation will receive $26 million to manage stormwater drainage, reduce roadway flooding, and address climate change vulnerabilities at 97 locations.

RIDOT will receive $750,000 to develop a coastal management plan to address alternatives for three state roadway resurfacing projects along Route 136 to facilitate the town of Warren’s Market to Metacom relocation plan.

The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority will receive $17 million to install a dehumidification system on the cables and anchors of the Mount Hope Bridge. Rhode Island Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse previously secured a $10 million earmark in the fiscal 2023 government funding law for dehumidification work that is currently underway on the bridge, for a total of $27 million. The project will prevent erosion of the cables which has accelerated because of climate change.

The city of Newport will receive more than $11 million to repair and stabilize the two sections of the Newport Cliff Walk that collapsed in 2022. Reed, Whitehouse and Rep. Gabe Amo secured an additional $5 million earmark for Cliff Walk repairs in the fiscal 2024 government funding measure that was signed into law last month, for a total of more than $16 million.

April 4, 2024

BioBlitz Investigators Needed to Explore Norman Bird Sanctuary

The 25th annual Rhode Island BioBlitz is scheduled to be held from 2 p.m. June 7 to 2 p.m. June 8 at the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown. The Norman Bird Sanctuary also hosted the Rhode Island Natural History Survey’s second BioBlitz, in 2001.

Those interested in participating in this year’s BioBlitz can still register for the two upcoming orientations: April 23 at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence and April 25 at the Norman Bird Sanctuary.

BioBlitz participants will investigate some 300 acres, including coastal forest and shrubland, farm field, streams, ponds, swamps, salt marsh, beach, dunes, and bedrock outcrop.

To learn more about the Survey’s popular event, click here to watch “BioBlitz: Discovering Nature’s Neighborhood,” a 28-minute documentary produced at the 2013 BioBlitz by the Coastal Institute at the University of Rhode Island.

For more information, send an email to Kira Stillwell at [email protected].

April 4, 2024

$5 Million in Grants to Electrify Mass. Garbage Trucks, Transit

Grant funding totaling $5.3 million has been awarded to 16 entities to support projects that will further electrify the Massachusetts transportation sector and help mitigate climate change. The funding will support the purchase of electric transportation equipment at Logan Airport, municipal garbage trucks, electric transit buses, onshore port charging in New Bedford, and other transportation equipment across the state.

The grants will fund eight new electric garbage trucks, three transit buses, one school bus, one shuttle bus, nine pieces of airport ground support equipment, and three pieces of airport cargo-handling equipment, according to state officials.

It will also fund installation of a New Bedford marine shore-power site, which allows vessels to turn off their engines while docked and still have use of critical electric-powered equipment. In addition, 75% of the funding will be used in environmental justice areas.

The grants are funded by nearly $2.3 million from the Volkswagen emissions settlement and about $3 million from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Climate Mitigation Trust, created by payments from energy generators that have not met clean-energy requirements.

“We’re putting these dollars to work in our communities to help demonstrate that newer clean technologies are just as effective as their polluting counterparts, MassDEP commissioner Bonnie Heiple said. “Spurring further investment in electric alternatives will bring our climate goals within reach.”
MassDEP, which distributes the grants, estimates that this program will reduce emissions by 6.2 short tons per year of nitrogen oxides and 530 short tons per year of carbon dioxide. Nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter, which is linked to short- and long-term respiratory and cardiovascular health effects. More broadly, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide emissions contribute to global warming and detrimental nutrient overloading in waterways.

The following entities were awarded funding from the Volkswagen Settlement for electric equipment:

41 North Offshore LLC, New Bedford ($23,229): one shore-power installation.
Baystate Health Inc., Springfield ($500,000): one shuttle bus.
Current Trucking LLC, Boston ($250,000): one transit bus.
Current Trucking LLC, Randolph ($250,000): one transit bus.
Five Star Transportation Inc., Chicopee ($164,748): one school bus.
Joseph’s Transportation, Medford ($500,000): one transit bus.
Massachusetts Port Authority, Boston ($141,300): three forklifts.
Southwest Airlines Co., Boston ($336,969): eight bag tugs.
Southwest Airlines Co., Boston ($105,565): one pushback tug.

The following entities were awarded funding from the Climate Mitigation Trust for new electric waste vehicles: city of Cambridge ($416,991); city of Holyoke ($500,000); city of Medford ($267,000); Republic Services Inc., Fall River ($498,119); Save That Stuff Inc., Boston ($500,000); town of Brookline ($364,511); town of Oak Bluffs ($264,279).

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