The hurricane season this year has affected millions of people and devastated southern states and countries in the Caribbean. Although Rhode Island was spared by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, our state is still dealing with the aftermath of past natural disasters, including Superstorm Sandy. October marks the fifth anniversary of Sandy, and it’s been a long road to recovery here. As we reflect on the damage caused throughout the northeast by that massive storm, we must also acknowledge the need to improve the resiliency of our critical infrastructure.
Thankfully, Rhode Island is making good progress. I visited the Scarborough Wastewater Treatment Facility in Narragansett, which was recently upgraded to withstand stronger storms. The improvements anticipate the effects of climate change, as the new flood barrier has been built to mitigate the higher floodwaters that come with sea level rise. With federal funds through the Community Development Block Grant Program, the rehabilitation of the wastewater treatment facility was made a reality and will allow the Town of Narragansett to sustain operations throughout a severe storm.
Last month, I also attended the announcement of Rhode Island’s first ever State Resiliency Officer, Shaun O’Rourke. Mr. O’Rourke will be responsible for developing a strategy to protect our state from natural disasters and to ensure we are able to quickly recover when we find ourselves in the eye of the storm. I applauded the Governor’s decision to create this position, which is in line with legislative efforts I have led to make sure our military bases and personnel are prepared for the effects of climate change.
Going forward, we must continue to innovate. That means changing our hazard planning to reflect the realities of a changing climate. It means working together to shrink our environmental footprint and to reduce our contribution to global warming. And, when the worst does happen, it means stepping up to provide relief to those whose lives have been turned upside down. I am so proud of the many Rhode Islanders who have gone to Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico to assist their fellow Americans, and I will continue to support federal funds to provide immediate support to families who are rebuilding their lives.
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