Date of Award

2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs

Department

Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Richard Burroughs

Abstract

Green infrastructure uses natural and nature-based systems and practices to infiltrate and treat stormwater runoff at its source, lessening the burden and reliance on “gray” piped stormwater networks. Existing academic and governmental literature reports that local decision-makers face complicated cognitive and perceptual barriers that exacerbate other hindrances to green infrastructure implementation. These barriers are understudied at the local level in general, as well as in Rhode Island (“RI”) municipalities in particular. This study employs a literature review, semi-structured interviews with RI municipal officials, and thematic coding to describe the cognitive and perceptual barriers inhibiting wider green infrastructure implementation. Of the twenty-nine municipalities targeted for interviews, responses from fourteen communities, ranging from rural to urban, were collected. For cognitive barriers, the analysis suggests that, although local officials have high awareness of and access to general information related to green infrastructure, many specific informational needs (i.e., site design, monitoring, cost-estimates) remain unmet. Analysis also shows that local officials have difficulty communicating green infrastructure’s co-benefits (i.e., transportation, recreation, aesthetics, etc.), despite strong understanding of these benefits. For perceptual barriers, the analysis suggests that how officials perceive external barriers like funding and maintenance may give rise to feelings of ambivalence towards implementation. Further, the analysis finds that framing green infrastructure as a product, rather than a process, limits its efficiency, thereby perpetuating feelings of ambivalence among local officials. This study serves as a starting point for this topic in RI and recommends practical strategies for improved communication and wider green infrastructure implementation.

Available for download on Tuesday, February 15, 2022

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