PROVIDENCE, RI – Today in East Providence, the Rhode Island congressional delegation and a representative from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) joined Middletown-based nonprofit Clean The Bay (dba Clean Bays) as the group detailed plans to clean up marine debris along the Seekonk and Providence Rivers. 

For over 100 years, the Providence and Seekonk Rivers and portions of the Upper Narragansett Bay have been dirtied by broken and abandoned pilings, wrecked vessels, docks, auto parts, hardware, appliances, and other trash.  This refuse harms local ecology and has rendered large portions of the waterways unusable to the public.  Earlier this year, with support from the delegation, Clean The Bay secured a $194,800 grant from NOAA to begin removal of pilings and other marine debris over the next several years.  The organization will also use the funding for outreach and to foster volunteer opportunities with community partners to further cleanup efforts.‎

“I commend Captain Kent Dresser and his team.  They literally do the heavy lifting when it comes to cleaning the Bay and organizing volunteers to help clean our shorelines.  I am pleased to have helped secure federal funding over the years to support their efforts,” said Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee who has worked with Clean The Bay since 2005, and has helped successfully provide $685,000 in NOAA grants to Clean The Bay and its partners over that period.  “Cleaning the rivers and watersheds that flow into the Bay has important health and economic benefits for all Rhode Islanders.”

“For years, I’ve driven past this section of the Providence and Seekonk Rivers and thought about ways we could restore here the natural beauty we see in other areas of the Narragansett Bay region.  That’s why I’m so excited to see this project move forward, returning a forgotten waterway into a place Rhode Islanders can enjoy,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who contacted Clean The Bay in an effort to find a Rhode Island group with the ability to do the job.  “Clean The Bay has proven itself to be up to the challenge.  Best of luck to Captain Dresser and his crew as they start the next phase of this important project!”

“Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island waterways are not only beautiful natural resources that deserve our protection, but they are also integral to the Ocean State economy. Keeping these natural treasures pristine requires commitment, and Clean the Bay is helping us to deliver on that promise,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “Clean the Bay helps to preserve the integrity of our waterways, and I look forward to seeing the end result of this important clean-up project.”

“For decades, people have talked about cleaning up the Providence and Seekonk Rivers, but today we’re finally moving forward on a plan that will rehabilitate and preserve these critical natural resources. This initiative will create jobs for hardworking Rhode Islanders and strengthen Rhode Island’s tourism industry over the long run,” said Congressman David Cicilline. “I applaud Captain Kent Dresser and the entire Clean Bays team for moving ahead on this important project, and I look forward to continuing to work with them.”

“Marine debris is a threat to our environment, navigational safety, the economy, and human health,” said Russell Callender, Ph.D., acting Assistant NOAA Administrator for the National Ocean Service. “NOAA is proud to partner with Clean Bays through a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal grant to create a more resilient Rhode Island by addressing the persistent problem of marine debris in the Narragansett Bay area. Removing debris from these waterways will benefit the coastal habitats, wildlife, waterways, and local communities.”

“Thanks to this funding by the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the tremendous support of our federal, state and city leaders, Clean Bays is able to begin the removal of an estimated 165 tons of plaguing, heavy debris that has been a detriment to the coastline for generations. The plan for ‘Phase I’ of The Providence River Project is expected to result in an initial clean-up of over 350 acres of shoreline while generating more support and awareness for the subsequent phases and for our overall goal of making Narragansett Bay and its tributaries some of the cleanest coastline that we have had the pleasure of seeing for decades!” said Kent Dresser, Executive Director of Clean The Bay.

Clean The Bay, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, specializes in removing marine debris from shores and waterways in the Narragansett Bay and Southern New England. 

Last year, with the help of a $50,000 grant from Newport’s 11th Hour Racing, Clean The Bay conducted a pilot program in the Seekonk River to test their equipment for safely removing wooden pilings embedded in the riverbed.  The results of that program proved Clean The Bay’s equipment highly effective, enabling the organization to pursue the NOAA funding.

The NOAA funding has been awarded through the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grants program, which supports marine debris removal projects that benefit and restore coastal waterways, habitat, and wildlife. Through this program, NOAA has removed more than 4,800 metric tons of marine debris from our oceans since 2006.