ecoRI News in Brief


Compiled by ecoRI News staff
Nov. 27, 2023

Grant Funding to Boost North Atlantic Right Whale Conservation

Federal grants totaling $3,483,190 and being administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will provide additional resources to aid New England lobster and other fixed-gear fishermen in developing and bringing new ropeless gear technology onto their boats, to reduce the risk of gear entanglement with endangered North Atlantic right whales.

Funding for the grant program, which was informed by the Right Whale Coexistence Act, was included in the bipartisan fiscal 2023 government spending bill.

The grants were awarded through the New England Gear Innovation Fund, a partnership between NFWF and NOAA, with additional support from Shell USA, one of the largest oil companies in the world that has witnessed record profits the past few years.

The projects supported by the grants will be designed to advance promising technologies that remove the need to rely upon vertical buoy and gear marking lines in the water, according to federal officials. They also noted that these grants will provide funding to ensure close coordination and partnership with fishermen to develop and refine technology that will be affordable, integrate seamlessly into fishery operations, and enable safe and efficient use.

Grant recipients include Ropeless Systems Inc., Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, EdgeOne LLC, and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Nov. 20, 2023

Revolution Wind Project Receives Final Approval from Federal Agency

The Revolution Wind offshore project has received approval of its construction and operations plan from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is the final decision needed from the agency to move the project toward the start of construction.

The Revolution Wind project, in the planning for years, would place 65 turbines across 84,000 acres about 15 miles southwest of Point Judith, R.I. It is expected to deliver 704 megawatts (MW) of power, including 400 MW delivered to Rhode Island and 304 MW to Connecticut. The project would have two offshore substations. Export cables on the seafloor would bring power to the land-based grid at Quonset Point.

Under Rhode Island’s 2021 Act on Climate law, Rhode Island must achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. And in 2022, the General Assembly revised the state renewable energy standard, requiring that 100% of Rhode Island’s electricity be offset by renewable production by 2033.

Nov. 16, 2023

RIDOT Submits Final Carbon Reduction Strategy to Feds

PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Department of Transportation has submitted its final Carbon Reduction Strategy (CRS) to the Federal Highway Administration for review and approval. The 83-page document identifies specific strategies and projects to reduce emissions in compliance with federal standards and the state’s Act on Climate law.

The plan, if approved, will provide an estimated $35.7 million to RIDOT between federal fiscal years 2022 and 2026 to use for emissions reduction.

RIDOT had formulated a draft plan and then opened it for 12 days for public comment. The comments, a number of which were made on behalf of community and climate groups, were tacked on at the end of the final CRS.

The final plan is different from the draft version in several ways: funding for bike path construction and improvement increased from $1.5 million to $6.6 million; $1.5 million was added to support the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority by providing better access to bus stops and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance at these stops; $20 million was dedicated to encourage mode shifts, meaning it provides other strategies to make it easier for people to make a decision to travel by means other than car.

Nov. 16, 2023

East Providence to Create Bike and Pedestrian Plan

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Rhode Island Division of Statewide Planning has awarded $160,000 to the city through its 2023 Municipal Technical Assistance Program to support the creation of a “Citywide Comprehensive Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.”

The 2023 Municipal Technical Assistance Program is designed to support municipalities with planning projects that enhance active transportation opportunities, increase mobility choice, and promote walkability and bike-ability.

East Providence’s application called for identifying a connected, citywide bicycle and pedestrian network as a priority in the transportation element of its current draft comprehensive plan update. The proposed project plan would connect the East Bay Bike Path, the Ten Mile River Greenway Bike Path, and the planned separated bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure for the Henderson Bridge redesign.

The city will match 20% of the grant funding with $30,000 in cash and $10,000 via an in-kind match.

Most East Providence residents rely on single-occupancy vehicles for their primary means of transportation, according to Statewide Planning, in part due to a lack of detailed comprehensive planning for safe, on-street, dedicated bicycle infrastructure and well-connected, high-quality Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks for pedestrians.

Nov. 12, 2023

R.I. Nature Video Festival Accepting Submissions

The Rhode Island Nature Video Festival is scheduled to hold its seventh annual event Sunday, Feb. 25, at 2 p.m. at Rhode Island College.

From among all qualifying videos, curators will select up to 75 minutes of videos for inclusion in the show reel to be shown live at the festival. All styles of nature video are welcome, from a single encounter to edited and narrated storytelling and documentation. All amateurs and professionals are invited, and new submitters are especially encouraged.

The entry rules can be found here. Submit a video by emailing your name, contact information, and a link to your video to [email protected] by Jan. 15 at 8 p.m.

The festival is organized and curated by the Environmental Council of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, the Ocean State Film Society, and RIC’s Film Studies Program.

Nov. 10, 2023

Extending Conn.’s Shore Line East Commuter Rail Into R.I. Discussed

WESTERLY, R.I. — A possible extension of Connecticut’s Shore Line East commuter rail to Westerly would have positive impacts for Rhode Island businesses and residents, according to state and local officials.

Rhode Island Sens. Victoria Gu, D-Charlestown, and Leonidas Raptakis, D-Coventry, and Westerly town manager Shawn Lacey held at meeting Nov. 8 to discuss a Connecticut Department of Transportation study of the proposal.

The recently released final draft of the Eastern Connecticut Rail & Transit Feasibility Study describes Shore Line East commuter trains running from New London to Westerly in available time slots between Amtrak runs, using the existing track and the existing Westerly Train Station.

The study estimated that the infrastructure improvements necessary to bring commuter rail trains to Westerly — a pair of high-level platforms and an electrified storage track at the Westerly Train Station— would cost about $19 million.

Among the key takeaways from the meeting was the recognition that extending Shore Line East to Westerly could serve as the catalyst for the development of a true statewide commuter rail service for Rhode Island.

“Connecting workers via commuter rail to booming job centers will be key to reducing traffic congestion, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and improving air quality,” Gu said.

Nov. 8, 2023

Aquidneck Land Trust Adds Wetlands Property to Conserved Parcels

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — The Aquidneck Land Trust (ALT) has announced the conservation of 2.5-acre wetlands property, known as the “Sullivan Preserve,” on the town’s northwest shore.

The parcel is next to the Wood-Estabrook Preserve, a 5-acre property donated to ALT this year. The Sullivan Preserve is a part of a larger 44-acre marsh and beach. A state-designated right of way runs through the land with access to a public beach.

The property was donated by four siblings in the Sullivan family. “These wetlands have been a part of our experience as an Aquidneck Island family since we were kids in the 1950s,” they said in a statement. “Our family shares many pleasant memories exploring this woodland, marsh, and shoreline. We are happy to deed this property to the Land Trust to preserve and steward its natural state for future generations.”

The site includes beach, salt marsh, and scrub-shrub habitat, and is visible from the path, railroad, surrounding houses, boats in the bay, and cars on the Mount Hope Bridge. It is strategically located should a multi-use path on the adjacent railroad line ever be created. A number of bird species have been recorded during site visits by ALT staff, including osprey and egrets.

ALT is the oldest accredited land trust in Rhode Island. Since 1990, it has conserved 99 properties covering more than 2,815 acres of land on Aquidneck Island.

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