Grants Available to Improve Woonsocket Water Quality

By CATHERINE SENGEL/ecoRI News contributor

WOONSOCKET. R.I. — Got a plan to help protect clean water? For the fourth year, the Blackstone River Coalition (BRC) has $16,000 in grant money for projects that address water quality and stormwater management in and around the city.

“We’re looking for innovative ideas,” BRC coordinator Peter Coffin said. “It can be for doing anything that will result in water quality improvements.”

Anyone — individuals, for-profits, nonprofits, private or public, organizations, residents and nonresidents — may apply. Applicants need only submit a one-page letter outlining the what, where, when, how and why of the proposal, including a budget breakdown of how the money will be spent.

“This is meant to be easy enough for a homeowner to tackle,” Coffin said. “It’s not meant to be a detailed plan; just an adequate description of what the project entails. It doesn’t need matching funds, but partnerships and skin in the game, or a match, is always a good thing.”

Awards are competitive. Applicants can request any amount, and a total of $16,000 will be distributed. Projects will optimally be completed within a year, though longer and shorter terms are acceptable, according to Coffin.

Past grants have gone to Save The Bay, one for bumper plantings along a pond to stop geese from spreading bacteria, and another for a survey of Peter’s River, a tributary entering the Blackstone River in Woonsocket.

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island is putting in a rain garden on the grounds of a church, and Riverzedge Arts, a nonprofit that works with youth, received a grant for a public education program around stormwater and another to install rain gardens around a new school yard and at the police station.

The deadline for proposals is May 31. Funded projects will have money available by September. Mail proposals to the Blackstone River Coalition, PO Box 70477, Worcester, MA 01607.

Funding for the grants comes from the city in lieu of a fine for a water quality violation. Funds are stretched out over 20 years to allow the city to pay the fine using income from leasing Thundermist Hydro to a private firm.

“For 20 years we have that income stream to do some good in Woonsocket,” Coffin said. “The important thing is to not discourage ideas, that’s why we try to keep it as loose as possible.”