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EPA Provides Smart Growth Assistance to North Kingstown, R.I.

Release Date: 06/13/2013
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – June 13, 2013) – North Kingstown, R.I. is one of only three U.S. communities which will be the focus of EPA technical assistance going to the State of Rhode Island to help apply smart-growth approaches to improve their economy and create jobs while protecting health and the environment. The other two areas selected for this assistance are Mississippi County, Ark. and Kelso, Wash.

Under the program, EPA will help the State of Rhode Island’s Division of Planning to assess impacts from climate change on economic activity in North Kingstown and prioritize strategies to increase economic resiliency to climate change. The work should help officials, business owners and residents in North Kingstown and other Rhode Island communities reduce the potential impact of climate change on jobs, revenue and economic assets.

“Our Smart Growth assistance is designed to help communities develop new economic opportunities, while also protecting our environment and the health and quality of life for local citizens,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “We’re optimistic that by working closely with Rhode Island officials and with the Town of North Kingstown, we can identify strategies and techniques that work locally and which may benefit other communities around the country.”

Severe floods in 2010 and coastal destruction brought by Hurricane Sandy raised concerns in the state about how jobs and businesses will fare if highways flood or tourist destinations are damaged. “We are eager to understand how communities can begin to discuss the economic tradeoffs to inform adaptation decisions for a future that looks very different from today,” says Pam Rubinoff from the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center and Rhode Island Sea Grant.

This project will provide a framework to analyze the specific strengths and vulnerabilities of economic activities to climate change hazards like flooding, rising sea levels, and drought. Building on a pilot analysis of North Kingstown, project partners will convene business owners, workers, and state and local officials in that town to develop strategies to ensure that local and regional economies will thrive despite the uncertainties of our changing climate.

The project underscores the common interests of economic vitality and climate readiness. “This EPA Smart Growth Implementation Assistance project offers a unique interface between climate change research and economic growth needs,” says Paige Bronk, Economic Development Manager for the Town of North Kingstown. “North Kingstown experiences both benefits and risks from its coastal location. This project will assist businesses to strategize about location and growth to reduce liability and operational issues while North Kingstown positions its future economy.” Stakeholders across the state and region will be able to adapt the framework and outreach strategies and apply the lessons learned in this project to other areas.

EPA selected North Kingstown and the other two recipients from a pool of 79 applicants. The projects are coordinated through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a joint effort of EPA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). This interagency partnership coordinates federal investments in infrastructure, facilities, and services to get better results for communities and use tax dollars more efficiently. The partnership is helping communities across the country create more housing choices, make transportation more efficient and reliable, reinforce existing investments and support vibrant neighborhoods that attract new business.

Since 2005, EPA has supported 36 Smart Growth Implementation Assistance projects serving 49 communities.

More information: Smart Growth Implementation Assistance Program (http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth)

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NOTE: First sentence edited on 6/19/2013 to clarify that technical assistance goes directly to the State of Rhode Island, which is focussing effort on the Town of North Kingstown.