5 years later, are there plans for the sunken barge in the Providence River?

RI - New NOAA-funded project will restore habitats near Port of Providence

PROVIDENCE – A federal grant awarded to the city not only aims to restore habitats near the Port of Providence but also to empower residents with more of a voice in projects that would enhance the shoreline and help protect it from rising seas and storm surges.

The $492,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate-Ready Coasts Initiative will fund a big-picture assessment of the stretch of shoreline along the Providence River that runs north of the port from Sassafras Cove to Collier Point Park.

It’s a heavily industrialized area that includes the former Conley's Wharf and the vacant Providence Gas Company building, as well as scrap-metal businesses Sims Metals Management and problem-plagued Rhode Island Recycled Metals. It’s also where the notorious wreck of a barge is half-submerged in the river, its crane clearly visible above the waterline.

But there’s impetus behind improving the waterfront after the reopening two years ago of Public Street as a shoreline access point. And there’s interest in natural solutions to shield the low-lying area from rising seas and to absorb floodwaters. Conducting an analysis of potential habitat restoration opportunities is the next logical step.

More: 5 years later, are there plans for the sunken barge in the Providence River? What we know

Grant will help ensure residents have their voices heard in projects that affect them

What’s more unusual about the NOAA-funded project is that it’s also paying to educate community members about the possibilities for the area and teach them about city and state planning processes to help ensure that their opinions are taken into account.

Starting in 2024 and continuing in 2025 and 2026, classes of 18 people recruited from the South Providence and Washington Park neighborhoods will go through a year-long training program that will include segments on climate change and stormwater.  

That sort of formal coursework is necessary especially to understand the ever-changing data of climate vulnerabilities, said Michele Jalbert, executive director of Providence Resilience Partnership, a nonprofit that coordinated the application for the grant.

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“It’s making it possible for residents to be more effective advocates for their community,” she said.

The program is being modeled on similar training conducted by PVD Tree Plan, in which residents learn about the benefits of tree-planting, and Nuevas Voces at the Water Table, an initiative created by the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council to train environmental advocates.

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