Ocean Views: A Resiliency Roundtable

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 1:30pm

Block Islanders are nothing if not resilient.

No harbor to support a fishing industry: design a special work boat – the Block Island double ender.

No wood for building and fuel: salvage every stick that comes ashore, from driftwood, to cargo, to ship hulls run aground.

Now, the Island –— like the state and much of the earth — is facing the challenges of sea level rise and a changing climate. For Block Island, rising sea levels and increasing extreme weather events will be particularly vexing. These challenges will require resiliency; an attitude of adaptation and flexibility. Finger-in-the-dike, or look-the-other-way strategies are not going to work. Fortunately, Block Island has a history and culture of solving its problems in a way that fits the Island’s scale and special situations.

On Thursday, Dec 7, at 12:30 p.m., at Town Hall, The Nature Conservancy will be hosting a Resiliency Roundtable led by the State’s Chief Resiliency Officer Shaun O’Rourke. This discussion will describe the state-wide effort to develop a resiliency action plan; and, will specifically be asking Islanders to focus on identifying the Island’s climate change  issues, how and what planning is needed to adapt, and prioritize those concerns and actions.

In September, 2017, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order outlining the State’s process for developing an Action Plan to Stand Up to Climate Change. The executive order included establishing the position of Chief Resiliency Officer (O’Rourke) and an Executive Climate Change Coordination Council (EC4). Together this O’Rourke/EC4 team are charged with developing an Action Plan to Stand Up to Climate Change that must be completed by July 1, 2018. The executive order requires that the plan recommend key actions that will make Rhode Island communities resilient to the impacts of climate change, prioritize those actions, and calls for the O’Rourke/EC4 team to manage and coordinate implementation efforts into the future. It is in his capacity as CRO that O’Rourke has initiated a series of community-level Resiliency Roundtable discussions around the State, to gather local information about climate change concerns and priorities.

The Town of New Shoreham has already embarked on work investigating the potential effects of sea level rise (Block Island Harbors Sea Level Rise Adaptation Study, 2013), and assessment of potential solutions to storm ravaged infrastructure (draft Corn Neck Road Planning Study). The Resiliency Roundtable is an opportunity to identify and prioritize local concerns from climate change threats, and integrate the Island’s planning with State planning, and possible future funding. Everyone is welcome — and encouraged — to join the discussion on Thursday, Dec. 7.

Kim Gaffett is the OVF Naturalist at The Nature Conservancy.