PROVIDENCE, R.I. –
Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank announced $1 million of financing to the Town of Westerly for an Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Project which calls for the dredging of Winnapaug Pond and the planting of eel grass to restore the marsh. The loans are being financed through the Bank’s Clean Water and Stormwater Infrastructure Fund (CWSIF) and are expected to reduce the Town’s debt service by 33% throughout the duration of the loan.
“The Infrastructure Bank is committed to accelerating investments in climate resilience and the preservation of Rhode Island’s natural resources,” said Jeffrey R. Diehl, CEO of Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank. “This loan will not only provide cost effective financing that reduces the financial burden on the Town, it will also serve as a catalyst to unlock an even greater amount of grant funding that will be invested in the community and the environment.”
This project is an outcome of Westerly’s participation in the Municipal Resilience Program, which is co-managed by the Infrastructure Bank and the Nature Conservancy. The Program helps municipalities prioritize actionable infrastructure projects designed to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Westerly was selected as one of the first five municipalities to participate in the program.
“Better prepared municipalities lead to a better prepared Ocean State. Our changing climate will have long-term effects on local infrastructure and residents,” said Shaun O’Rourke, Director of Stormwater and Resiliency at the Infrastructure Bank and the State’s Chief Resiliency Officer. “The Infrastructure Bank is glad to see the town taking decisive steps to put their strategy into action.”
The dredging project is expected to benefit the environment by improving water quality, reducing sedimentation and spurring eel grass growth. The latter provides natural water filtration, foraging space for crabs and an abundant food source for waterfowl. In addition to funding the entirety of the project, the loan will also serve as a “State Match” to unlock $2,442,569 of grant funding awarded to the Town by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a Natural Systems Demonstration Project in Winnapaug Pond.
“Working with the Infrastructure Bank not only provided the mechanism to obtain over $5 million in funding to implement two significant grant projects, it also provided the Town with a process to gain consensus within the community and with its partners to identify, apply for, and receive grant funding for large-scale resiliency projects,” said Westerly Town Manager Mark Rooney. “We are looking forward to beginning the project in the fall of 2020.”