PROVIDENCE, RI – Today at Save the Bay, U.S. Senator Jack Reed was joined by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, along with officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state and community partners to announce new federal funding to benefit the Southeast New England Program (SNEP) for Coastal Watershed Restoration. The series of federal grants will contribute to the restoration, protection, and preservation of the Narragansett Bay Watershed and other surrounding watersheds in the southeast New England region.
Senator Reed, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, led efforts to establish and fund the SNEP for Coastal Watershed Restoration by securing $2 million to launch it in fiscal year 2014 and including a total of $5 million in the fiscal year 2015 omnibus package.
“Restoration of our wetlands and freshwater rivers and streams is critical to the health of our coastal ecosystem and the resiliency of the Bay. Our waters connect and sustain us and collaboration is key to protecting our watershed. Unfortunately, pollutants and storm runoff don’t stop at the border’s edge. That is why I spearheaded this program: to bring people together – across communities and state lines – to take a strategic, scientific-based approach to protecting and improving the health of the Bay and our entire coastal watershed,” said Senator Reed.
Along with $1 million for the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, four new projects will provide tangible benefits for Rhode Island waterways, including $200,000 for the Rhode Island Department of Health to pursue a groundbreaking effort to train New England laboratories to use EPA’s “Rapid qPCR” method for confirming beach water quality in hours rather than days. This project will include partnership efforts with Save the Bay, Clean Ocean Access, the Town of Bristol, and the City of Newport.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) will receive $200,000 to launch a multi-partner effort with the University of Rhode Island Coastal Institute (URI-CI), the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, and others to advance conservation and restoration projects along the waters of southern New England.
The Nature Conservancy will receive a $199,664 federal boost to collaborate with the public and partner organizations on safeguarding the Taunton River watershed and determining locally appropriate nutrient management strategies.
Additionally, the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District will receive $170,000 to develop a green infrastructure map of the Taunton River watershed and help communities protect water quality, groundwater recharge, flood control, and biodiversity.
“This federal funding will help build on the progress we have made through last year’s watershed restoration grants. I commend EPA, DEM, the Department of Health, and all of the stakeholders and community partners who are part of this initiative. I will continue working to secure federal funding to support their efforts and protect the health and beauty of Narragansett Bay, our watershed, and coastal ecosystem,” concluded Reed.
Quotes on the continued efforts of the Southeast New England Coastal Watershed Restoration Program:
Curt Spalding, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New England Regional Administrator: “EPA is grateful for the support by Rhode Island and Massachusetts leaders for this critical program to restore and protect water quality and habitat for southeast New England watersheds and coastal areas. We are pleased at the variety and quantity of projects we can undertake this year to make progress on these issues.”
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: “We’ll need fresh ideas and plenty of team work to deal with threats facing Narragansett Bay and our beautiful coastline,” said Whitehouse, co-chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus. “This funding will bring together some of the most skilled scientists in the region with environmental groups and other important partners, and that collaboration will make everyone involved more effective. This is a smart use of federal funding and very good news for Rhode Island.”
Congressman Jim Langevin: “Preserving Rhode Island watersheds is critical to strengthening our state’s economy and protecting our natural resources, and these EPA funds will not only help accomplish those goals, but will also empower Rhode Islanders to better understand our environment and how it impacts our lives. These projects will ensure that residents in Rhode Island and beyond have the most accurate information and can play an active role in keeping our watersheds clean and safe.”
Congressman David Cicilline: “Rhode Island’s shoreline and waterways help bring new visitors and economic activity to our state year-round. All of us have an obligation to do more to preserve these critical natural resources,” said Congressman Cicilline, who earlier this year led an amendment to add $1 million to the Southern New England Estuaries Geographic Program. “I am delighted to join my colleagues in the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation today to bring back nearly $5 million in federal funds to help restore coastal watersheds throughout Southeast New England.”
Janet Coit, R.I. Dept. of Environmental Management Director: “Rhode Island’s natural resources, and in particular Narragansett Bay and our waterways, are treasured and invaluable assets that support our economy, families, and way of life. We are pleased to be a partner in this initiative and look forward to working together to preserve our coastal watersheds for generations to come.”
Southeastern New England Coastal Watershed Restoration Program: http://www2.epa.gov/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)