Proponents of ballot questions 5 and 6 held a press conference at Goddard Park Tuesday to press for their passage, arguing that the $40 million ($20 million each) is essential for the future health of local waters and green spaces.
"We want to be sure that people understand how important it is," said Jonathan Stone, executive director of Save the Bay.
Noting that some groups this year are arguing against any additional government spending, Stone said: "This is not a year to be complacent."
Jody King, past president of the Rhode Island Shellfishermen's Association, said his main goal was to be able to keep making a living on the water.
"I love my job," said King. "Shellfishing is what I've done for the past 20 years and I want to do it for another 20."
King had bags of clams and quahogs on display before the podium. "Quahogs are the only fish that Rhode Island can call its own," he said. "Let's protect Rhode Island's fish."
Sitting next to the bags of clams was a bucket. King plunged his hand into it and pulled out two small scallops that, he said, he'd gotten that morning at Rocky Beach, next to Rocky Point.
"Twenty years ago, I used to see condoms float by. I haven't seen that lately," said King. "I'm catching these every day."
For people in East Greenwich that could mean something special, since the area along Water Street used to be known as Scalloptown for the volume of scallops that were harvested and brought to shore there.
King said he would be returning those scallops to the bay later that day, but he brought them to show what he hoped was a sign of better times to come.
Vinnie Confreda of Confreda Farms in Cranston spoke to the importance of good farmland – and the need to protect it, noting that Confreda Farms employs more than 200 people.
Scott Duhamel of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades spoke of the importance green jobs could represent if the ballot questions are passed.
Save the Bay's Stone mentioned the 2003 fish kill in Greenwich Bay, noting that while bacteria in Narragansett Bay has been reduced, nitrogen is still a significant issue.
"This money is crucial for denitrification," he said. There are 19 sewage treatment plants that empty into Narragansett Bay. Several of them are up to the task of mitigating nitrogen, but a few aren't, Stone said, mentioning plants in Warwick and Newport in particular.
"We don't want to have another fish kill like Greenwich Bay," Stone said.