EPA joined state and local dignitaries to announce $5 million in federal funding to continue efforts of the Southeast New England Program for Coastal Watershed Restoration. 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., including Narragansett Bay and all other Rhode Island coastal waters, Buzzards Bay, and southern Cape Cod.

EPA has committed $4,999,500 for coastal watershed restoration in southeast New England through several partnerships.

“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.” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

Specific funding highlights include: $1 million to the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program and $1 million to the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program for priority projects in these watersheds; approximately $1.5 million through EPA’s Healthy Communities Grant Program funding nine projects; and approximately $1.5 million in contracts for work that contributes directly to protection of coastal water quality and provides better understanding of future efforts and practical solutions.

Four funded projects will provide tangible benefits for Narragansett Bay, including a $200,000 allocation for the Rhode Island Dept. 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 Clean Ocean Access, Save the Bay, Town of Bristol and City of Newport.

The R.I. Dept. of Environmental Management (RI DEM) is receiving $200,000 to launch a multi-partner effort, focused on building the foundation for key environmental indicators meaningful to the public. Partners in this project include the University of Rhode Island Coastal Institute (URI-CI) , Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection, R.I. Environmental Monitoring Collaborative and Watershed Counts.

Using funding of $199,664, The Nature Conservancy 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 is receiving $170,000 to develop 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.

“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, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee who led efforts to establish and fund the SNEP for Coastal Watershed Restoration by securing $2 million to launch it in fiscal year 2014, and included a total of $5 million in the fiscal year 2015 omnibus appropriations package. “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.” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed.