Johnston voters will likely face a ‘flood bond’ in the fall, though state and federal grants may soften the blow


Johnston’s impending flood bond may be a little less hefty thanks to some help from state and federal agencies.

While sections of Johnston are still drying out, both the state and federal governments have announced grants to help the town fight future flood damage.

“We were awarded $2.08 million from the federal government, through Sen. (Jack) Reed, and $340k from the state, through RIIB (Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank),” according to Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena Jr.

Gov. Dan McKee’s office announced Johnston’s $340,000 grant for “stormwater management” along Atwood and Hartford avenues last week.

“This is a long-term project that will take years,” Polisena explained. “Now that we know how much we will receive in grants we can determine the scope of the project. If we were receiving no additional funds from the federal government or state that would significantly change what we’d be able to do.”

Other sections of town may require home buyouts, according to the mayor (a program funded, in large part, by federal grants). Those determinations are expected by summer.

“But again, now that we have that information we can come up with a design and add the projected cost to the town in a prospective stormwater management bond,” Polisena explained. “An example of what I’m saying is if we were receiving no additional funds, we may only be able to do a $3 million dollar fix.  Since we know we’re receiving additional funds, now we know we might able to do a $5 million fix. I want to secure all the outside funding we can first then determine the scope and breadth of the projects.”

RIIB awarded Johnston what it calls a $340,000 “Municipal Resilience Program Action Grant for stormwater upgrades to help mitigate flooding on Atwood Ave and Hartford Ave.”

“The purpose of this project is to address heavy flooding associated with the Pocasset River Watershed at Johnston’s Town Center intersection of Hartford and Atwood Avenues, which has worsened significantly in recent years due to increased precipitation and storm intensity,” according to the grant description. “The area just south of Hartford Avenue and Atwood Avenue intersection is impacted where the Pocasset River passes under Atwood Avenue through a bridge/culvert structure. Stormwater flooding creates significant safety hazards in this area and extends up to the Route 6 ramps, causing traffic on surrounding roads, including Route 295 to be slowed to a crawl. This project will fund the design for green stormwater solutions to address the flooding problems associated with the Pocasset River Watershed. Phase II of the project will be construction of stormwater solutions.”

The engineering work has already begun.

“No one engineering firm could do all project work for the entire town, it would take too long, so we will divide it amongst multiple engineering firms,” Polisena said. “DiPrete has a few neighborhoods in the town, Fuss & O’Neill has others, etc.”

McKee and RIIB announced $12 million in action grants for “Municipal Resilience Projects” across 20 Rhode Island communities, “funding from the 2022 voter-approved Green Bond,” aimed at helping “cities and towns to implement resilience projects to address the impacts of climate change.”

“Investing in Rhode Island's communities isn’t just a prudent decision but a crucial step in securing a resilient future,” McKee said in the press release. “The impacts of flooding and storms have been wide-ranging throughout our state, but with this funding from the voter-approved Green Bond, we can mitigate those risks, improve our response, and adapt to meet the climate change challenge.”

According to the governor’s office, the Green Bond will utilize $16 million “to help communities restore and improve vulnerable coastal habitats, river and stream floodplains, and infrastructure. It also includes $5 million for a small business energy loan program to provide zero-interest and below-market loans for clean energy projects.”

“In just the last few weeks, communities across Rhode Island have experienced the effects of extreme storms, severe flooding, and coastal erosion, all of which are anticipated to increase due to the impacts of climate change,” William Fazioli, Executive Director of Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, said in the press release. “Rhode Island needs to invest in resilient infrastructure solutions now, and that is exactly what this $12 million in 20 Municipal Resilience Program Action Grants will allow 19 communities across our state to do. We look forward to continuing to work with our city and town partners through the Municipal Resilience Program, and to partnering with our state and federal leaders to create a sustainable financial framework to address the mounting challenges posed by acute and chronic climate related events.”

On Wednesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced nearly $2 million for Federal Disaster Assistance for Rhode Islanders affected by September storms.

“A little over 30 days after President Joe Biden declared a major disaster for the state of Rhode Island for the severe storms, flooding and tornado winds that occurred Sept. 10-13, 2023, $1,929,949 in federal assistance has been provided by FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to support the state’s recovery,” according to FEMA.

Ocean State homeowners and renters in Providence County, “whose homes and property were damaged by the storms have until March 7,” to apply for federal assistance.

According to FEMA, 364 eligible Rhode Island homeowners and renters have been helped with “uninsured storm-related losses.” FEMA housing grants totaling $1,548,638 will “help pay for home repair, home replacement and rental assistance for temporary housing,” and $86,821 has been delivered for “Other Needs Assistance grants to help pay for personal property replacement and other serious storm-related needs such as moving and storage fees, transportation, childcare, and medical and dental expenses.”

The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency and FEMA opened, staffed and operated two Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in Providence County, including an office at the Johnston Senior Center on Hartford Avenue, “to provide one-on-one assistance to survivors.” According to FEMA, over 200 survivors have visited these centers.


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