EPA awards $150K to Woonasquatucket River watershed pilot

March 14, 2022
The funding support will help implement a sustainable funding mechanism for stormwater management and maintenance of green- and gray-water systems.

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council as the fifth pilot watershed funded through EPA's Southeast New England Program (SNEP) addressing coastal water quality issues.

The addition of the Woonasquatucket River to SNEP's inaugural Pilot Watershed Initiative will bring further attention to urban water quality issues in five R.I. towns and two cities within the Woonasquatucket River watershed (Glocester, North Smithfield, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston, Providence, and Cranston).

"EPA is pleased to announce this additional pilot watershed to find effective solutions to urban water quality concerns, including nitrogen pollution, habitat loss, and the impacts of climate change," said Regional Administrator David W. Cash. "We are particularly proud that this builds on EPA's commitment to ensure our efforts are protecting and investing in underserved communities. I'm excited that the Woonasquatucket watershed has been added to a strong group of partners working under SNEP's pilot initiative."

Under the management of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC), EPA funding of $150,000 will support the WRWC in increasing community capacity to improve river water quality, develop a community-centered climate resilience plan, and implement a sustainable funding mechanism for stormwater management and maintenance of green- and gray-water systems. Like the other four SNEP Watershed Pilot programs, EPA expects to award a total of $750,000 over the next five years to WRWC to improve the health of the Woonasquatucket River and anticipates that this effort will yield transferable skills and techniques that can be applied in other communities.

The WRWC project joins four previously announced watersheds included in the SNEP Pilot Watershed Initiative. The five watersheds are intended to demonstrate how concentrated, collaborative efforts and holistic planning can more effectively address common environmental challenges in coastal southeast New England. Demonstrating watershed scale solutions is a key piece of SNEP's Five-Year Strategic Plan and ultimately an important part of promoting safe and clean water, healthy habitats, and thriving communities. With the funding of this fifth pilot watershed, total EPA funded is expected to reach $3,750,000 across the five projects with an additional $1,277,380 in matching funds over the next five years. 

"The biggest threats to clean water and healthy coastal ecosystems – including climate change, nutrient pollution, and habitat loss – demand collaborative, innovative, and targeted responses," said R.I. Department of Environmental Management Acting Director Terry Gray. "The EPA's Southeast New England Program pilot watershed project clearly qualifies as such a response. It's exactly the kind of investment that's needed to solidify the progress we're making to preserve and restore coastal environments in our region."

The four additional pilot watersheds include: 

  • $149,998 to the Buzzards Bay Coalition to identify and prioritize sources of watershed impairments and develop solutions to address stream alteration and nutrient loading in an urbanized area of the Buttonwood Brook-Apponagansett Bay area of Massachusetts. Project partners include the City of New Bedford, the Town of Dartmouth, Buttonwood Zoo, the Friends of Buttonwood Park, and the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust. 
  • $149,995 to the University of New Hampshire Stormwater Center to demonstrate the effectiveness of using distributed, small-scale stormwater control measures to restore hydrologic balance and address water quality and flooding issues in Tisbury, Massachusetts. Project partners include the Town of Tisbury, the Martha's Vineyard Commission, and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.  
  • $150,000 to the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition to apply an innovative nature-based solution to reduce nitrogen impacts from a retired cranberry bog in Marstons Mills, Massachusetts, while also restoring habitat. Project partners include the Town of Barnstable, The Nature Conservancy, and the Native Land Conservancy.  
  • $150,000 to the Town of Charlestown, Rhode Island to support an enhanced integrated effort to address the impacts of excess nutrients from septic systems and stormwater on Greater Allen's Cove and Ninigret Pond, Rhode Island through installation of nitrogen reducing septic systems and nature-based stormwater solutions. Project partners include the University of Rhode Island, the Salt Pond Coalition, and Save the Bay. 

In 2012, Congress charged EPA with conserving and restoring southeast New England's coastal environment, and in 2014 began providing funding to develop a Southeast New England Program (SNEP). SNEP provides needed funding to local organizations that are restoring clean water and healthy coastal ecosystems while strengthening local communities.