URI students win award for proposal to protect Port of Galilee from sea-level rise

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KINGSTON, R.I., Nov. 16, 2016 — University of Rhode Island students have won a state award for their proposal to protect the Port of Galilee from rising sea levels caused by climate change.

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Planning Association selected “Galilee: A Vision for a Resilient Port’’ as the winner in the student category.

Landscape architecture, environmental science and management, and marine affairs students contributed to the report, which was prepared by William A. Green, a professor in URI’s Landscape Architecture Department; Austin Becker, assistant professor of Coastal Planning, Policy and Design at URI; Antone Almeida, a URI undergraduate; and Mary-Kate Kane, a URI graduate student.

Students worked on the project for months, responding to the concerns that sea levels will rise 3 to 5 feet in Rhode Island by 2100. Climate change is to blame.

The Port of Galilee, the state’s largest fishing port and critical transportation hub for Block Island, stands to be affected, especially during coastal storms.

The students looked at ways to make the port more resilient and sustainable. The projects range from constructing floating buildings and a living breakwater system to installing walking paths through wetlands and rebuilding the dunes at Salty Brine State Beach.

The living breakwater system would be made up of reef balls, grass plantings and eco-friendly concrete. The floating project involves buildings that would be constructed on cement foundations, but would float during floods.

Students also suggested creating more efficient parking and a museum about the community’s history. Policy ideas were also proposed.

“The awards committee loved the project,” said Jeff Davis, the planning group’s awards chair and a project planner for the Horsley Witten Group in Providence. “It involved fantastic ideas, meaningful, inclusive collaboration, great visuals and robust data and trend analysis with inventive yet regulatory-compliant solutions. We all hope to see steps taken to implement these ideas both at Galilee and at other areas along the Rhode Island coast.”

The award will be presented during a ceremony Jan. 12 at Slater Mill in Pawtucket.