R.I. Infrastructure Bank Wins EPA Award for Work Improving Health of Narragansett Bay


WARWICK, R.I. — The Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank has received the 2022 Environmental Protection Agency Merit Award.

The EPA honored the Infrastructure Bank (RIIB) with the award because of its work financing improvements for storm and wastewater systems, which have positively impacted the health of Narragansett Bay.

With millions of dollars and below-market-level interest rates, the bank has supported clean water projects across the state, including upgrades at Warren’s wastewater treatment plant, green stormwater Infrastructure improvements for Macomber Stadium in Central Falls, and the creation of a bioretention stormwater system in Warwick.

In the past year, the bank has given out $54 million in loans for clean water projects on top of its other infrastructure work.

Better waste and stormwater management means less bacterial contamination and fewer shellfishing closures in upper Narragansett Bay, where Rocky Point Park sits and where RIIB CEO Jeff Diehl, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and David Borkman, principal environmental scientist at the state Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Water Resources, waded into the water last Tuesday to celebrate RIIB’s award and to try their hand at quahog raking.

Commercial shellfisherman Jody King, in a pair of shorts and water shoes, instructed the group on the proper techniques.

“If you haven’t caught a hundred rocks, you haven’t caught a quahog yet,” said King, referring to the rocky ground off the beach.

The senator caught a rock, a horseshoe crab, and eventually a few bivalves. Diehl, on the other hand, walked out of the water without a quahog but carried a few extra pounds of water inside a pair of leaky waders.

Although the day celebrated the work of the RIIB and the improvement in Narragansett Bay’s health, Whitehouse said there is still work to be done on water quality and climate change in general.

He told ecoRI News Rhode Island has done a lot of work to improve the resilience of its water treatment plants to prevent storm surges and flooding from disrupting their service, and that the recent Inflation Reduction Act will provide the state with the resources it needs to continue improving.

Whitehouse said he worries about issues such as ocean acidification, which could eventually impact the quahogs like those sitting on the seafloor around Rocky Point.

“It’s coming,” he said, “and we need to be ready for it.”

Colleen Cronin is a Report for America corps member who writes about environmental issues in rural Rhode Island for ecoRI News.


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