By CAMILLE VELLA WILKINSON and ERIN LYNCH PRATA As legislators from Warwick, it is our responsibility to propose policies that help our city and state address the growing impacts of climate change. That is why we have introduced legislation to establish
As legislators from Warwick, it is our responsibility to propose policies that help our city and state address the growing impacts of climate change. That is why we have introduced legislation to establish the Ocean State Climate Adaptation and Resiliency fund (OSCAR) to help our cash-strapped municipalities combat the effects of rising seas, erosion, and inland flooding. The bill has the unanimous support of the Warwick’s City Council and Mayor.
Over the past decade, Warwick has become the epicenter of climate change. The 2010 Pawtuxet River floods caused major property loss and damage. Sewage backed up into people’s homes because our wastewater treatment plant was under water. Today, our coastal beaches and parks are under siege from rising seas and erosion from intense coastal storms. The Coastal Resources Management Council projects that Warwick’s shoreline will look vastly different by the end of this century.
Cities and town throughout Rhode Island face mounting challenges from climate change. But they need resources. If passed into law, OSCAR will provide those resources so we can relocate public infrastructure, such as beach pavilions and parking lots, out of harm’s way.
OSCAR will pay for new, bigger culverts under roads and bridges to allow rising rivers and coastal waters to pass through, preventing street flooding. OSCAR will also help communities fortify their shorelines, not with concrete walls, but with soils and plants that can help absorb floodwaters and maintain local ecological health.
While we are proud to note that the City of Warwick, with partners including Save The Bay and the Department of Environmental Management, are already implementing these ideas at Oakland Beach, Longmeadow, and City Park, there is so much more to be done.
OSCAR will help us get there by generating $1.9 million per year from a 5-cents-per-barrel fee on petroleum shipped into Rhode Island ports. A barrel of oil is 42 gallons. For every 10 gallons of gas you put in your car, you would only pay one extra penny. As policy makers, we think it makes sense to connect the funding source – petroleum, a major driver of climate change – with a program to help cities and towns adapt to the impacts of our use of petroleum. Best of all, OSCAR will provide grants to cities and towns without requiring matching funds, and will help leverage millions of federal grant dollars for projects.
The OSCAR bill merits the support of all legislators, from both coastal and inland communities. It will help our constituents, present and future, deal with climate change and its profound impact on our state. Let’s take action now and pass OSCAR into law.
Camille Vella Wilkinson, a Democrat, represents District 21 in Warwick in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. Erin Lynch Prata, a Democrat, represents District 31, Warwick and Cranston, in the Rhode Island Senate.