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New bill to improve coastal resiliency introduced in Rhode Island General Assembly

Bill mandates creation of plan to address rising sea levels by June 2025


Rep. Tina Spears (D-Charlestown, Sout​h​​ Kingstown, New Shoreham, W​ester​​ly​​) introduced H7022 — a bill to improve coastal resiliency — in the Rhode Island House of Representatives Jan. 5. The bill mandates the creation of a coastal resiliency plan by June 30, 2025. 

The plan will outline “strategies and necessary investments” to prepare for and address the effects of rising sea levels on Rhode Island communities, Spears wrote in an email to The Herald.

“Rhode Island has an erosional coast,” said Laura Dwyer, information coordinator for the RI Coastal Resources Management Council. “Over time, coastal property owners are losing the land in front of their homes to the ocean.”

According to Topher Hamblett, executive director of Save the Bay, “in urban areas, popular places like India Point Park are more frequently flooded and eroding,” he wrote in an email to The Herald “In suburban areas, neighborhoods that were built along the water’s edge are flooding more frequently. On the South Coast, we are seeing entire dunes systems disappear.”


“Rising seas are causing salt marshes — the nurseries of life in estuarine and coastal environments — to deteriorate and sink,” he added. “We will lose most of the marshes we have.”

For Spears, Rhode Island must prepare for inevitable changes to its coast. “This must include a statewide strategy that leverages federal funds and supports local municipalities,” she wrote. 

Coastal resiliency projects can involve “natural green infrastructure such as dunes or reefs, hard infrastructure such as sea walls or elevation or retreat and relocation strategies,” Spears explained, noting that these initiatives must be deployed in ways that are appropriate for different communities. 

Spears shared that she and Sen. Victoria Gu (D-Westerly, Charlestown, South Kingstown) are currently working to get support from environmental agencies and academics for the bill. “Legislation is rarely successful without a concerted effort from the experts on the policy and legislators whose communities are impacted,” she wrote.

The bill itself doesn’t outline a plan, instead mandating the creation of one, which, according to Spears, should allow for a more extensive assessment of the issue before the state makes an investment decision.

Hamblett believes that this bill “can serve as a catalyst for real, effective resilience planning in the state.” 

“We must begin to prepare and take care of our communities” to effectively address climate change-related issues, Spears wrote. “If we act today, we will be prepared for what is to come.”  

The bill was referred to the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee. According to a press release from the Rhode Island General Assembly, Gu will soon introduce the bill to the Senate.


Avani Ghosh

Avani Ghosh is a Metro Editor covering politics & justice and community & activism. She is a sophomore from Ohio studying Health & Human Biology and International & Public Affairs. She is an avid earl grey enthusiast and can be found making tea in her free time.

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