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9/23/2015 Commission forming to study economic impact of sea rise
STATE HOUSE – As a result of legislation sponsored by Rep. Lauren A. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), a new legislative commission is organizing this week to study Rhode Island’s economic risk from flooding and sea rise.

The 11-member commission, which will hold an organizational meeting Thursday at 2 p.m. in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House, is tasked with assessing Rhode Island’s financial risk and economic exposure due to flooding and sea rise and reporting to the General Assembly. In particular, the commission is to perform case studies on the Providence Port, the Newport waterfront and the South County tourism and marine industry to determine what financial effects rising sea levels could have on them, and to provide information on how to prepare and respond to those risks.

“We need to think in concrete terms about what a higher sea level would mean to the specific businesses and properties along our coast that are drivers of our economy, and make some real plans for protecting them and our state’s economic interests. I’m looking forward to learning about the science and how it affects Rhode Island, and helping to set the stage for plans that prepare and protect our assets from the destruction of severe weather and rising sea levels,” said Representative Carson, who is expected to lead the commission.

Besides Representative Carson, the commission includes Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), Rep. Patricia L. Morgan (R-Dist. 26, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), Dr. James Opaluch of the Kingston Coastal Institute at the University of Rhode Island, Charlestown Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz, Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lisa Konicki, ProvPort Chief Operating Officer Bruce Waterson, South County Tourism Council President Myrna George, Independent Insurance Agents of Rhode Island Executive Vice President Mark Male, Rhode Island Commerce Corporation Senior Project Manager Michael Walker and Newport Maritime Alliance Vice President Ann Souder.

Under the establishing legislation (2015-H 5478), the commission is to provide information including economic risks to Rhode Island municipalities, businesses and the investment community so that they may factor sea rise and flooding into their short- and long- term decision making. It is also charged with making recommendations to the General Assembly about further steps to maintain the value of public and private property and revenue, to define adaptation strategies, to better understand the cost of inaction, and to propose new approaches to understand and address the business risks associated with sea rise and storm surge.

The commission is currently scheduled to meet monthly through February, and will hold three meetings that are each dedicated to one of the case studies: South County on Nov. 19, Providence on Dec. 17 and Newport on Jan. 21.

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923