PROVIDENCE – Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit today praised Rhode Island voters for their commitment to investing in clean water, green space and Narragansett Bay restoration by approving the two environmental bond issues on this year's statewide ballot.
"By overwhelmingly supporting Questions 5 and 6, Rhode Islanders in every city and town across our beautiful state are helping to promote healthier communities and a healthier economy," said Director Coit. "Thank you, Rhode Islanders, for saying YES for clean water. YES for productive farmland. YES for wild places. YES for parks where kids can play. YES for healthy rivers and bays. The Rhode Island people have given a resounding YES to investing in, restoring and caring for our environment!"
The two ballot questions were approved by 70 percent of Rhode Island voters and provide much-needed funding for clean water investments in addition to green space preservation and recreation development. Question 5 provides $20 million to the RI Clean Water Finance Agency for wastewater and drinking water system upgrades across the state that will help ensure cleaner beaches and bays, more productive fisheries, and healthier communities. Construction of drinking water infrastructure projects and wastewater treatment plant upgrades will put people to work as well as bring clean water to our homes and preserve our rivers and bays.
Question 6 provides $20 million to DEM for farmland, local recreation and open space grants, parks, state open space acquisition, and restoration of Narragansett Bay and its watershed. Over the years, DEM's state open space, farmland and recreational development grant programs have resulted in the protection of hundreds of worthwhile projects – places used by residents and tourists alike for outdoor recreation – and contributed to the economic health of the state. Tourism is a $5.2 billion industry, making it the fourth largest economic engine for Rhode Island and a key job generator, which supports more than 41,000 jobs in the state.
According to Director Coit, Rhode Island's natural resources continue to be powerful drivers for economic development and tourism and sources of great pride for its residents. These natural assets play a big role in the state's tourist economy by providing opportunities for the public to camp, fish, hunt, hike, and enjoy the great outdoors, and at the same time bring revenue to the local economy. Residents and tourists spend over $378 million annually in Rhode Island on trip and equipment-related expenditures for fishing, hunting, and wildlife-watching activities, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service's National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (2006).
Rhode Island's farms are important small businesses that contribute to the health of our economy, Director Coit pointed out. Agriculture provides numerous benefits to RI's economy, quality of life, open space, and access to local foods and horticultural products. In fact, as a recent URI study pointed out, the 2,500 green industry businesses in RI sustain 12,300 jobs and contribute $1.7 billion annually to the state's economy.
Director Coit praised the coalition of conservation organizations and volunteers that worked to inform and educate the public about the importance of the bonds. They include The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society of RI, Save The Bay, Grow Smart Rhode Island, RI Building Trades, Utility Contractors Association of RI, RI Saltwater Anglers Association, RI Shellfishermen's Association, RI Land Trust Council and the many local land trusts that supported passage of Questions 5 and 6. "DEM will work vigorously to insure that Rhode Islanders get the best return on this investment in natural resource protection by continuing and strengthening our collaboration with organizations and agencies across the state," she added.
"By voting YES for the environmental bonds, Rhode Islanders have given us the green light to continue to preserve and protect our state's unparalleled natural beauty and water resources for generations to come," Director Coit said.