NORTH KINGSTOWN – The Quonset Development Corporation and the R.I. Department of Transportation will receive $6 million in federal funding to make upgrades and repairs related to storm damage caused by 2011’s Hurricane Irene, Rhode Island lawmakers announced Monday
The federal funds, which were announced by Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and U.S. Reps. James R. Langevin and David N. Cicilline, will be used to reconstruct Quonset’s Zarbo Avenue Bulkhead, which helps protect three marine industry businesses from waterfront storm surges.
“This federal funding will create Rhode Island jobs in both the near- and long-term,” Chafee said in a statement. “Quonset is home to 168 companies supporting 8,800 employees, and we must continue to strengthen this vibrant economic hub. This funding will allow us to do just that, improving the bulkhead and protecting area businesses from future storm damage.”
The bulkhead – built in 1941 – suffered significant damage from Hurricane Irene and is considered “highly vulnerable to failure from future storms,” according to a release. Because of the danger of bulkhead failure, the existing companies have been forced to relocate equipment during major storms.
“We cannot expect businesses to locate and expand in our state unless we are proactively working to put them in a position to thrive,” said Langevin in prepared remarks. “Acquiring this funding represents the type of commitment required to take full advantage of the economic opportunities we have at Quonset.”
The new bulkhead will be one to two feet taller than the original in order to better protect existing and future businesses located along the waterfront industrial property.
According to a release, the Quonset Development Corporation estimates that the bulkhead project will protect 80 existing jobs and create 32 new ones by encouraging investment in currently vacant parcels of land on the bulkhead.
“The port at Quonset is a valuable asset for our state’s economy,” said Whitehouse in a statement. “This funding will give businesses at Quonset peace of mind that their property is safe from storm damage, protecting existing jobs and encouraging the development of dozens more. Adding to the new control tower, pier and crane, it will help keep Quonset an economic engine for Rhode Island.”
The Quonset Development Corporation applied for the funding after attending an Economic Development Administration Grant Workshop hosted by Reed and Whitehouse in July at the Community College of Rhode Island.
The $6 million EDA grant requires a 20 percent match to the federal funds, according to a release.