BOSTON -- EPA today joined state and local dignitaries formally launching the Southeast New England Coastal Watershed Restoration Program.
The new program will serve as a framework to promote a broad ecosystem approach to protecting and restoring the coastal watersheds of southeast New England (coastal areas from Westerly, R.I. to Chatham, Mass., including all waters of Rhode Island, southern Cape Cod, Narragansett Bay and Buzzards Bay). The program, consisting of government and non-government organizations, is currently working collaboratively and innovatively to maintain and improve water quality and habitat conditions within these coastal watersheds.
In collaboration with a diverse array of stakeholders, the program will focus on developing and promoting innovations in restoration and protection practices, development of new, more efficient technologies, and application of new policies to these new approaches. A critical element of this program will be to prepare for climate change impacts and highlight the need to build resilience into all decision-making. Partners include key federal and state resource agencies, local organizations, and the two local National Estuary Programs in Narragansett Bay R.I. and Buzzards Bay Mass.
To help commence work to advance protection of these coastal waters, EPA also announced grant funding of $728,559 to Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) (Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program) to fund six sub-awards in the Buzzard’s Bay watershed; and $723,869 to the host agency for the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), to fund six sub-awards in the Narragansett Bay watershed. A list of these projects can be found on the websites for the Buzzards Bay Program and Narragansett Bay Estuary Program (see below).
In addition, EPA has allocated $500,000 in technical assistance funds to develop preliminary stormwater best management practice (BMP) designs in Barnstable and Chatham, Mass. The two Cape Cod communities will help develop and pilot designs including an innovative stormwater BMP that will tie into existing infrastructure and treat stormwater for both pathogens and nitrogen. Based on technical feasibility and total cost, one of these communities will be selected to move forward with construction of the BMP. The goal of this project is to develop a stormwater BMP that can be shared with other New England communities.
The program will work with stakeholders to develop an overall planning framework and action agenda that builds on and complements the planning and implementation capacities of the numerous entities engaged in this area. By integrating habitat, water quality, and physical processes as parts of a complete whole, the Southeast New England Coastal Watershed Restoration Program will serve as an ecosystem framework for thinking and acting regionally. The goal is to collaborate to share best practices, maximize resources and opportunities, and build local program capacity to sustain this unique approach over the long term.
Quotes on the launching of the Southeast New England Coastal Watershed Restoration Program:
Curt Spalding, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New England Regional Administrator: “EPA is very excited to show how this new program will help our region find optimal ways to restore and protect water quality and habitat for f southeast New England watersheds and coastline. We are grateful for Senator Reed’s leadership on this issue, which advocates for a strong bi-state regional partnership that will result in actions to help our communities address challenges such as nutrients and coastal resiliency. What makes this new program different is its approach to foster innovative thinking and connect partners to think and act in ways that can be transferred across New England.”
Senator Jack Reed: 'This program will help advance conservation and restoration projects along the waters of southern New England that simultaneously advance economic growth through job creation while also protecting public health and the environment. Equally important, a partnership has been formed between various stakeholders in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts to jointly work together in the protection and restoration of these shared waters and resources. This collaboration is critical because larger scale ecosystems like the Bay need a coordinated effort to achieve water quality goals that protect public health and help sustain these vitally important resources.' Senator Reed is the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Environment, who spearheaded the effort to make $2 million in federal funding available for this program.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: “In Rhode Island and Massachusetts we know that protecting the water quality of Narragansett Bay benefits our communities and coastal economy. Nutrient pollution and habitat loss in the watershed put the Bay and our way of life in Southern New England at risk. The projects being funded today will improve water quality in the short term and educate communities about how they can help protect Narragansett Bay as we face the challenges of climate change. I applaud the EPA and our Narragansett Bay National Estuary Program for these smart investments and congratulate all the grantees.” Senator Whitehouse is the co-chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus and a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Janet Coit, R.I. Dept. of Environmental Management Director: “What sets this program apart is its focus on seeking innovative solutions and testing new ideas in a collaborative manner across the region. DEM, and all of Rhode Island, looks forward to transfer of knowledge that will come from the work carried out not just here but also in Buzzards Bay and on Cape Cod as part of this program. We have expanded our team of partners and that can only help us get this important work done.”
Maeve Vallely Bartlett, Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary: “With this new grant program in place, we can improve water quality in the Buzzards Bay region by funding local efforts to reduce nutrient pollution from wastewater discharges, runoff and other sources. This program also recognizes that a regional approach to these common pollution problems is needed, and we thank EPA for funding both these projects and similar projects in Rhode Island and on Cape Cod.”
David W. Cash, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner: “Massachusetts is extremely pleased to work with our partners at EPA Region 1, RI DEM, and NEIWPCC to implement this new regional coastal watershed restoration program. Massachusetts has made it a priority over the last several years to address nutrient loading in our coastal watersheds, so we are excited to see the water quality and ecosystem benefits reaped from these inaugural projects.”
Ron Poltak, New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission Executive Director: “NEIWPCC is proud to be part of the team that’s helped make this important funding reach such worthy recipients. As the host and partner of NBEP, we are looking forward to working with the grantees from both states to ensure that the SNECWRP’s first year of funding is successfully implemented. We’re eager to get these wide-ranging projects off the ground and to do more about solving the critical issue of nutrient pollution within southeastern New England coastal watersheds.”
Southeastern New England Coastal Watershed Restoration Program: http://www.epa.gov/region1/snecwrp
List of projects funded by EPA: Buzzards Bay Program’s website: (http://restore.buzzardsbay.org/restoration-funding.html) and Narragansett Bay Estuary Program’s website: (http://www.nbep.org/index.html )