Voters face difficult decisions when they enter the booths on Nov. 6: Who should sit on the next town council? Who should lead the school committee? Who are the best representatives to the Rhode Island General Assembly? Who should be U.S. president?
Two questions on the ballot, however, should be easy to answer: Yes on Questions 5 and 6.
Question 5 would provide $20 million for clean water infrastructure improvements, including $12 million for wastewater treatment plant improvements and $8 million for drinking water system improvements. The money will be used to leverage millions more in federal funds. Maybe nowhere else in the country are a state’s economy and quality of life more affected by water. In Rhode Island, we are blessed with a beautiful bay, rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. This money will be used to keep it that way.
Question 6 would provide $20 million for farmland and open space protection, park development and bay restoration. Approximately $4.5 million would fund the state program to permanently protect farmlands; $2.5 million would be used to acquire state parks, beaches and shoreline areas; $2.5 million would create matching grants to municipalities, land trusts and other organizations involved in protecting wildlife habitat, farms, forests and water resources; $6.5 million would be spent improving and creating municipal parks and restoring historic parks; and $4 million would protect water supplies, ponds, rivers, streams, and Narragansett Bay from polluted storm water and establish a fish passage on the Blackstone River.
In the past, residents of these towns voted overwhelmingly in support of environmental bond referenda and the payoff is evident everywhere from Tiverton’s Pardon Gray to progress toward the dream of an Aquidneck Greenway
Pressure to develop such gems is intense. If it hopes to save any of the farmland that’s left, the state needs money to compete.
These initiatives will pay dividends that dwarf the investment.