The U.S. Bureau of Energy Management has awarded Rhode Island $200,000 to identify offshore sand and gravel resources for replenishing beaches. This is part of a federal effort to help coastal communities recover from Superstorm Sandy and prepare for future major storms.
State officials expect future major storms to damage our beaches more than Superstorm Sandy did. That means Rhode Island’s sand needs will continue to grow as we experience more extreme weather events, said Grover Fugate, executive director of the Coastal Resources Management Council.
“Offshore sand and gravel is a logical source to look at for those [beach nourishment] projects,” said Fugate. “So what we wanted to do is start to do that work in advance of the actual need.”
The federal grant will allow state officials and researchers at the University of Rhode Island to look for sand resources in federal waters. They’ll also collaborate with other New England states to assess the environmental impacts of extracting sand and gravel from the ocean.
“Our environment up here is different obviously than mid-Atlantic or Southern states. So we would need to do a lot of that environmental work up this way to start to understand implications from sand and gravel extractions, [and] how to better manage that so you reduce the impact of those extraction operations.”
Work to map out potential offshore sand and gravel resources may begin later this summer or in the fall.
Coastal planners and managers will have access to the information gathered from this study to reduce potential storm damage to the residents, businesses, and infrastructures of the state’s coastal areas. It will also integrate information from the CRMC’s ongoing Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan.