PROVIDENCE, RI – What started nearly a decade ago when U.S. Senator Jack Reed secured a $2 million appropriation to launch the Southeast New England Program (SNEP) for Coastal Watershed Restoration program in Fiscal Year 2014 has grown into a clean water success story with over $43.6 million in federal funding and the appropriations pipeline flowing to revitalize local watersheds in Rhode Island and southern New England.

SNEP funding is administered through a partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Restore America’s Estuaries.  The Southeast New England region consists of coastal areas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including areas around Narragansett Bay and Buzzards Bay.  Federal SNEP funding is leveraged by state and local government and non-government organizations, including non-profits, community organizations, academic institutions, and businesses working collaboratively to maintain and improve water quality and habitat conditions within these coastal watersheds.

Today, Senator Reed, along with Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, hosted EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe and EPA Regional Administrator David Cash for a walking tour of Riverside Park, guided by Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC) Executive Director Alicia Lehrer, and provided an update on how SNEP funds are making a difference across the state and region.

During the Industrial Revolution, Rhode Island’s rivers -- and waterways throughout New England -- served residents by powering factories that provided jobs.  As the population increased, communities sprouted up along Narraganset Bay and the Buzzards Bay watershed, leading to increased pollution and waste flowing into New England waters.  And today, stormwater runoff, erosion, development, and infrastructure challenges affect the health of our rivers, streams, and watersheds.

Since 2015, federal SNEP funds have been used to clean up local waterways and create economic opportunities for surrounding communities. 

This year, a total of $9 million in SNEP eco-grants is being allocated for a variety of projects, including:

  • $3 million to Restore America’s Estuaries for SNEP Watershed Implementation Grants.
  • $1 million to the New England Environmental Finance Center at University of Southern Maine for SNEP Network (Technical Assistance Network).
  • $750,000 to continue work on five SNEP Pilot Watershed Initiative grants, including the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council’s work to strengthen community capacity to improve river water quality, develop a community-centered climate resilience plan, and implement a sustainable funding mechanism for stormwater management and maintenance of green- and gray-water systems.
  • $500,000 to support BMP monitoring, outreach support, and developing water quality monitoring plans for the five pilot watersheds and an upcoming SNEP State of the Region Report.
  • $250,000 each to the Narragansett Bay Estuary program and the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program to continue restoring water and habitat quality.
  • $150,000 to bolster community capacity building efforts in the region.

Additionally, thanks to the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (P.L. 117-58), an additional $15 million will flow to SNEP over the next five years.  EPA plans to allocate $2.3 million in FY 22 toward the development of a Responsible Management Entities (RMEs) strategy and installation of innovative/alternative septic systems in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  Additional funds will also go toward helping the U.S. Geological Survey study groundwater nitrogen and bacterial concentrations related to septic systems.

“We want our communities and waterways to be clean, healthy, and connected.  Our watersheds are ecologically and economically important.  This federal watershed conservation funding helps bring people together to solve big challenges and clean up the Bay and other waterways in a strategic, coordinated manner that benefits the entire region,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Here in Rhode Island, the water is at the heart of so much of what we do. Our economy, tourism industry, and recreation are shaped by Narragansett Bay and its surrounding rivers and streams,” said Rep. Jim Langevin. “Rhode Island is a coastal community, so there is so much at stake if we don’t protect our waterways. I am grateful that SNEP is leading the efforts to keep our ecosystems clean and connected, and I’m proud to support their work.” 

“Rhode Islanders deserve clean and sustainable waterways. The additional $15 million in funding for the Southern New England Program provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill will help increase the climate resiliency of our waterways, improve water quality and health outcomes in disadvantaged urban coastal areas, and expand economic opportunities for communities within coastal watersheds,” said Rep. David Cicilline. 

“EPA is grateful that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is providing our Southeastern New England Program for Coastal Watershed Restoration with an additional $15 million over five years. These funds will make a real and lasting difference, especially in disadvantaged communities who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, allowing the program to make further investments in the health and resiliency of all of our coastal communities. I want to thank Senator Reed for his partnership in helping to ensure that Rhode Island has a clean and healthy environment that can serve as the foundation for prosperous local economies and communities,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe.

“The SNEP program is a testament to the power that a successful federal, state and grassroots partnership can make. Right here in Rhode Island and throughout southeastern New England, coastal communities are searching for solutions to environmental challenges including climate change impacts, elevated nutrient levels harming water quality, and protecting communities that have been overburdened by environmental impacts. During the past several years, we’ve already seen that SNEP efforts are making tangible strides in helping communities to develop and test solutions to these problems,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash.

“Since 2014, the Southeast New England Program has had a tremendously positive impact on ecosystems and communities throughout our region, funding clean water projects, wetland and river restoration, environmental justice, green job training, innovative technologies and more. SNEP supports and enables partnerships among municipalities, non-profit organizations, scientific organizations and others working to tackle the region's environmental problems, building long-term capacity while meeting communities' most pressing needs. Restore America's Estuaries is grateful for the vision of Senator Reed and his colleagues, and the support of EPA Region 1, in continuing this vital program,” said Tom Ardito, Director, SNEP Watershed Grants, Restore America's. Estuaries 

“We applaud SNEP for prioritizing projects that serve communities like this one that have been so environmentally degraded and where the people who have the fewest resources are challenged the most by issues like poor air and water quality, flood risk, and intense summer heat,” said Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council Executive Director, Alicia Lehrer.