EPA Awards $5M to Protect Southern N.E. Watersheds

From Westerly, R.I., to Chatham, Mass., the coastal watersheds of southeast New England occupy a special place between Long Island Sound and the Gulf of Maine. (EPA)

From Westerly, R.I., to Chatham, Mass., the coastal watersheds of southeast New England occupy a special place between Long Island Sound and the Gulf of Maine. (EPA)

By ecoRI News staff

The Southeast New England Program for Coastal Watershed Restoration initiative recently received $5 million in federal funding to continue its efforts to maintain and improve habitat conditions within coastal watersheds.

The program brings together innovation and partnerships to apply an ecosystem approach to protecting and restoring the coastal watersheds of southeast New England, from Westerly, R.I., to Chatham, Mass.

Specific funding highlights include: $1 million to the Buzzards Bay Estuary Program and $1 million to the Narragansett Bay National Estuary Program for priority projects in these watersheds; about $1.5 million through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Healthy Communities grant program funding nine projects; and ab out $1.5 million in contracts and partnerships for work that contributes directly to protection of coastal water quality.

Project highlights from the past year include efforts to address high nutrient levels in stormwater impacting New England waterways. There were two pilot projects on Cape Cod, in Chatham and in Hyannis, where innovative stormwater retrofit systems were installed. The EPA expects these pilots will provide valuable data and information about the percent reduction of nutrients that can be achieved with advanced technology.

During the next year, the EPA is planning to develop a stronger partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), helping to leverage existing monitoring efforts. The EPA, USGS, the Cape Cod Commission and state agencies will work in the Cape Cod towns of Barnstable, Dennis, Falmouth, Mashpee and Orleans to conduct site investigations for the potential design of permeable reactive barrier technology application.

Under EPA’s Healthy Communities program in New England, about $1.5 million has been allocated for nine proposals. Four of the projects focus on improving Narragansett Bay, while five projects focus on improving Buzzards Bay and watersheds on Cape Cod.

The Nature Conservancy ($199,664) will apply to the Taunton River watershed a proven, successful approach used by the Cape Cod Commission for engaging the public in determining locally appropriate nutrient management strategies, with a particular focus on building collaboration and partnerships throughout the region.

The Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District ($170,000) is developing a green infrastructure map of the Taunton River watershed, giving municipal officials case studies and training in using customized overviews of natural features in their communities that serve to protect water quality, groundwater recharge, flood control and biodiversity.

The Buzzards Bay Action Committee ($200,000) is updating the GIS database of the Buzzards Bay stormwater atlas to help monitor outfalls and further track and monitor potential illicit discharges, including using a smart phone application to help document monitoring and identification.

Buzzards Bay Coalition ($100,000) to support the 2016 and 2017 Baywatchers Monitoring Program. The project will expand sampling into the winter months, where samples will be collected at each winter monitoring event.

The County of Barnstable, Cape Cod Cooperative Extension ($66,468) to compare the effectiveness of nitrogen removal in rain gardens and conventional stormwater systems at three Cape Cod land parcels, each of which contains both systems, allowing for a direct comparison. Efficiency of the two systems will then be compared in terms of cost vs. performance for nitrogen removal. This project will include the support of Woods Hole Sea Grant, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the towns of Bourne, Dennis and Mashpee.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe ($198,174) to build shell reef structures within Popponasset Bay and seed with oyster stock to introduce a large number of filter feeders to the bay as a measure of water-quality improvement. The proposed reef would cover about 4 acres of shoreline, and would also assist in protecting the shoreline from weather events.

The Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group ($135,693) to research and calculate nitrogen uptake by the common invasive reed phragmites, and to investigate annual cutting and harvesting of the invasive plant as a potential mitigation strategy. This project will also look using phragmites as a product in agriculture and as a biofuel source.