Because Rhode Island’s statewide adaptation plan, Resilient Rhody, was only released in July 2018, these pages capture ongoing activities that state agencies have been taking in support of local climate action, before adoption of the plan. This research will be updated in the future with the progress the state is making in implementing the adaptation actions and goals set forth in Resilient Rhody.
In 2011, the Rhode Island Climate Change Commission held their inaugural meeting with the aim of “mainstreaming” climate change and adaptation policies in local and state laws and policies to help local decision-makers and private citizens prepare for the impacts of climate change. In 2012, the commission published a progress report Adapting to Climate Change in the Ocean State: A Starting Point including an assessment of adaptation actions ranging from planning, to evacuation studies, to work on “climate ready estuaries” and other ecologically restorative efforts to “ease future climate change impacts” like flooding.
In 2016, along with a technical paper on the socioeconomics of sea level rise, Rhode Island’s Department of Administration’s planning division prepared factsheets for the state’s coastal communities. These are intended to identify populations most at risk across multiple sea-level rise scenarios to allow municipalities to consider demographic and socioeconomic factors in developing plans.
Also in 2016, Rhode Island’s Statewide Planning Program published a technical paper Vulnerability of Municipal Transportation Assets to Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge. The report includes a vulnerability assessment as well as information tailored to each municipality vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge.
In 2017, the state legislature passed a bill requiring all members of local planning boards and commissions to be trained on the impacts of flooding and sea level rise to the state. This fulfilled a recommendation from the House Commission’s 2016 Economic Risk Report to “increase statewide awareness and resources for resiliency.”
Beginning in 2019, the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank (RIIB), in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, is awarding funding to municipalities through the Municipal Resilience Program (MRP) to support community-driven planning processes to identfy and mitigate priority local hazards. The MRP builds on Resilient Rhody's financing goals and recommendations. Through the two-step MRP, participating municipalities must first follow the "Community Resilience Building" process to develop a vulnerability assessment and resiliency plan. Once this step is completed, a municipality becomes certified as a "Resilient Rhody Municipality." These municipalities can then apply for action grants to implement projects identified as a result of the first step. Eligible projects must be identified through the Community Resilience Building process, make a community more resilient, and involve a capital investment that will result in construction. MRP Action Grants require a 25% match from municipalities and are not available for research-related activities, such as studies and strategic plans.
In 2019 and 2020, the state piloted the MRP in a few municipalities. Over time, the state aims to roll-out the MRP to all of Rhode Island. As of August 2019, the state and other nongovernmental partners have spent over $13 million on municipal adaptation efforts to implement adaptation projects like dam repair, road elevation, watershed restoration, and green stormwater infrastructure, among others.
(Research last updated: July 21, 2021).