A new state grant program is available to help fund tree planting and other projects that combat climate change in Connecticut.
Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz announced the $1 million urban forestry grant program earlier this week alongside environmentalists and lawmakers. She also urged Connecticut residents to support the governor's bill on climate adaptation. The bill outlines state investment to build resilience to future storms and other infrastructure projects to safeguard against rising sea levels and climate-warming industry.
Legislation drafted in the House is in alignment with President Joe Biden’s “build back better” priority to focus on “sustainable and resilient infrastructure investments.” If passed, the bill would provide funding options to cities and towns allowing them to charge a conveyance fee on property taxes and those funds would be allocated to climate adaptation efforts.
The legislation builds on the expansion of the state’s microgrid program to protect vulnerable communities in Connecticut. It would be up to local governments to fund projects that “enable them to live, learn, and work in resilient communities,” according to the bill.
Katie Dykes, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said she wants the state to allocate money to build infrastructure in the communities that would most benefit them and the climate.
“We know what infrastructure looks like here in Connecticut and the type of infrastructure it takes to be a leader on addressing climate change,” Dykes said. “It includes investment in things that reduce emissions but also types of tree planting and nature based solutions that we’ll be able to expand.”
The urban forestry grant would also be available to nature-based infrastructure — like rain gardens that prevent runoff pollution — and clean energy projects, including large-scale solar, electric vehicle charging stations and carbon-zero public transportation.
Bysiewicz said the grants will allow projects like the Urban Resources Initiative to continue their work planting over 500 trees a year in New Haven. The money would be allocated to groups in both large and small grants that focus on specific environmental restoration projects.
“DEEP is about ready to commit significant funding for urban forestry projects with environmental justice consideration and they are going to create climate equity grants if this legislation passes that would be offered on a repetitive basis to cities like New Haven,” Bysiewicz said.
Data shows that Connecticut could see up to 20 inches in sea level rise, extreme temperatures, and frequent flooding by 2050. Lowering greenhouse gas emissions is where the state can make the most impact, she said.
“Every municipality has different needs, different challenges, different geography, and this bill gives cities and towns flexibility to take whatever action they need to create resilience, flood prevention, and create storm waterboards as well,” Bysiewicz said.