By LAURA WEICK Mayor Joseph Solomon announced plans for "e;the Oakland Beach Resiliency Initiative"e; to combat climate change and improve water quality on Tuesday morning. The $565,000 project will add a vegetated coastal buffer on the Oakland Beach on
Mayor Joseph Solomon announced plans for “the Oakland Beach Resiliency Initiative” to combat climate change and improve water quality on Tuesday morning.
The $565,000 project will add a vegetated coastal buffer on the Oakland Beach on Seaview Drive near Strand, as well as removal of low-lying street pavement and an extension of a recreational walking path. Solomon said the purpose of this project is to prevent flooding and erosion caused by climate change, which creates rising sea levels due to melting polar ice caps. The project would also enhance water quality, according to Solomon, and would protect infrastructure and the natural habitat from water damage.
“Climate change is causing the sea level not just in this city but throughout our nation to rise, which means that areas nearby are more susceptible to flooding,” Solomon said. “In fact, the area we are standing right now becomes submerged at high tide during many storms. When these barriers are put in place, the sea [will] not [encroach] at this level. This flooding impacts more than just the look of what we see today.”
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) awarded the city $400,000 from its Climate Resilience Grant Program to partially fund the project. The remainder of the project cost will be funded by grants from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant Program and the Coastal Resources Management Council’s Shoreline Adaptation and Design program.
Caitlin Chaffee, policy analyst at the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, said that the Coastal Resources Center at the University of Rhode Island helped the city receive design funds for the project, while the DEM helped provide construction funds.
The proposed timetable for the project shows project planning during the fall of 2020 and the winter of 2021, followed by bidding in the spring and summer of 2021. Construction would begin next fall, with completion expected by the spring of 2022.
“This has been a dream come true to protect the shoreline, and all the shoreline of the City of Warwick, and I think people really have to take it serious about climate change that's happening all around the world,” Ward 6 City Councilwoman Donna Travis, who represents the Oakland Beach area, said. “It affects everybody, especially the city of Warwick right now. But we've been working a long time to try to preserve inch by inch, but now to see this come to reality it's unbelievable. And I can't say thank you enough.”
Travis continues to advocate for beach fees at Oakland Beach, as crowding was an issue earlier this summer. However, she worries that people will try to park for free near the buffer as well as the nearby boat ramp.
This is the second major improvement for the Oakland Beach area announced this summer. Solomon announced $600,000 in recreational improvements to Oakland Beach in August, including handicapped accessibility, playground and boardwalk improvements and a splash park.