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R.I. ballot asks voters to deliberate on environmental issues

With election day less than two weeks away, Rhode Island voters will soon make a decision on several questions that could have a major impact on the state's environmental future. 

The Clean Water Finance Agency Bond on Question 5 involves a loan of $20 million from Federal Capitalization Grants that would be used to finance water pollution abatement projects and clean drinking water initiatives. Question 6, the $20 million Environmental Management Bond, would provide funding for the restoration of the Narragansett Bay and Watershed, the State Land Acquisition as part of the Open Space Initiative, Farmland Development Rights and renovation of historic parks and recreation areas.

According to the Environmental Council of Rhode Island website, the water pollution abatement projects are expected to begin in 2013 and be completed by 2017, and a similar timeline is given for the water purification initiatives. The useful life of these two projects may last approximately 20 years after their completion, according to the Rhode Island Clean Water Finance Agency and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management websites.

Question 6 is being promoted by Save the Bay, a nonprofit RI environmental organization. The bond would allot approximately $4 million for the restoration of the Narragansett Bay and Watershed and a total of $9.5 million for the Open Space land acquisition and Farmland Development Rights within the state.

The Open Space clause in Question 6 would allow the Rhode Island Conservation Agency to "put aside about $5 million to buy the development rights for farms," said Joseph Bachand, program manager for the RICA. The program will pay "up to 50 percent of the cost of the appraisal," Bachand added. This would make the trade and acquisition of agricultural land in the state more profitable and would encourage landowners to use their land for agricultural purposes, he said.

Question 6 would further allot $6.5 million for the "renovation and development of historic and passive recreation areas," as well as "grants to municipalities for acquisition, development or rehabilitation of local recreational facilities," according to the Environment Council's website.


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