On November 1, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the award of $3,339,177 in regenerative funding for southeast Massachusetts communities and new technical assistance and partnerships with local organizations working to restore clean water and healthy, resilient coastal ecosystems.
“From investments for projects to help restore our wetland habitats to projects to clean our waters and support climate change adaptation, this federal funding is fantastic news for Massachusetts,” said U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. “I’ll continue fighting for federal investments in green infrastructure to help tackle the climate crisis and support healthy, thriving coastal ecosystems.”
More than $1 million of this new funding is through President Biden‘s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which is providing funds for projects across the country to improve climate resiliency and address infrastructure upgrades.
“Massachusetts communities rely on clean water and healthy ecosystems,” said Senator Markey. “Using funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and annual appropriations, communities from Nantucket to Worcester will be able to improve stormwater management, prevent flooding, and restore critical habitats and fish passages. I thank the EPA for these resources, which will deliver high-impact projects to protect the health of our waterways for both our fish friends and all of us who live, work, and play along these iconic waters.”
The remaining funds are through annual Congressional appropriations to EPA’s Southeast New England Program (SNEP).
“SWIG will provide over $1.4 million toward high-priority restoration projects in Massachusetts, out of a total of $3.2 million in funding this year. It’s also gratifying to see that much of the other SNEP funding being announced will support projects that were initiated with prior SWIG grants,” said Tom Ardito, Director of SNEP Watershed Implementation Grants (SWIG).
In addition to the BIL-funded projects, SNEP is providing $1,494,685 in grants through the SNEP Watershed Implementation Grant (SWIG) program; $298,287 under a competitive research grant; $300,000 under an Inter-Agency agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); $250,000 to the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program; and direct technical assistance to three municipalities.
“This project will have a lasting positive impact on the ecological health of Buttonwood Park,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “I want to thank our federal delegation, the Coalition of Buzzards Bay, and the Healey Administration for their support of this critical green infrastructure initiative.”
Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Projects:
- Lily Pond Park (Nantucket Land Bank) ($600,000): The project will install nature-based and traditional stormwater infrastructure to improve water quality in the pond, paired with improvements to provide America’s with Disabilities Act accessible pathways, boardwalks, seating, and signage. The project will also expand the Land Bank’s existing master planning process to include more areas of the watershed.
- Mass Audubon Society ($465,965): The project will cover planning, permitting and implementation of salt marsh restoration practices at several sites around Dartmouth, MA to facilitate marsh migration and restore tidal hydrology. This effort will be paired with community education, engagement, and workshops to help the public understand the importance of salt marsh to coastal habitat and resilience.
SNEP Annual (Base) Congressional Appropriations Projects
SNEP Watershed Implementation Grants Projects
- City of West Bridgewater ($284,500): The project will enable design and permitting of a Nature-Like Fishway to replace the existing poor condition fish ladder along the Town River at West Bridgewater’s War Memorial Park. The river supports fish runs into Lake Nippenicket, one of the largest natural lakes in eastern MA, and Hockomock Swamp, the largest vegetated freshwater wetland system in MA. The current fish ladder and dam pose risks to fish migration and downstream areas.
- Mass Audubon ($217,800): The project team will partner with the City of Worcester and others to advance design and engineering to improve and restore flood storage, floodplain reconnection, wetland habitat, and water quality, as well as offer new and enhanced recreational and educational opportunities for nearby Environmental Justice communities.
- Buzzards Bay Coalition ($499,730): The project represents a unique opportunity to invest in the restoration of Buzzards Bay’s most negatively impacted coastal stream flowing through the center of its most densely developed and disadvantaged communities. It will improve water quality and support climate change adaptation by implementing a distributed network of Green Infrastructure (GI) practices to maximize stormwater capture, promote groundwater recharge, and build system resilience. It also seeks to maximize the social, environmental, and health related co-benefits of GI by removing unnecessary impervious cover and restoring native plants and trees to improve local air quality, increase access to green space, and mitigate urban heat island effects.
- Nantucket Conservation Foundation ($255,000): The project will ultimately restore 40 acres of former cranberry bog to self-sustaining natural wetlands and integrate the restored wetlands into the broader landscape of freshwater wetlands, hardwood forests, and upland grasslands. This funding will enable initial restoration of about 10.5 acres to diverse wetland habitats.
- MA Department of Conservation and Recreation ($100,000): The project will consist of pilot design and installation of an “embankment filter,” a filtering stormwater control measure that can be installed on slopes that are typically considered too constrained for conventional stormwater controls. The project will develop implementation documents including standard details, materials and construction specifications, and methods for estimating pollutant reduction using the EPA stormwater Performance Curves. These will be shared with the greater New England stormwater community so this measure can be more readily incorporated in other locations. This project exemplifies how approaches from the SNEP Stormwater Retrofit Manual can be realized on actual sites to improve water quality in constrained areas.
- Pocasset Water Quality Coalition ($37,655): The project will educate property owners to the causes and effects of stormwater runoff in Hen Cove and Wings Neck Inlet and engage the community in action both at the community level with rain gardens on town property and at the residential level with green infrastructure to restore the health of Hen Cove, Wings Neck Inlet, and other nearby bays for safe swimming and boating and return the eel grass and shellfish beds to their original levels. Through community volunteer events and interactive workshops, this project shifts the work of PWQC from policy into infrastructure and permanent, sustainable action.
“The Southeast New England Program continues to provide vital and targeted funding to dozens of water quality improvement projects in our region,” said Congressman Bill Keating. “These projects are critical to the overall improvement of the health and water quality of our communities’ estuaries and embayments. The research and hands-on experience generated by SNEP projects have advanced water quality science and have further cemented this region as the nation’s laboratory for water quality. I’m proud of the work that SNEP has accomplished since Senator Jack Reed and I worked together to start the program a decade ago and I am proud to see this increased investment resulting from the passage of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”
Competitive Research Project
Cape Cod Commission ($298,527): The project will create a model for lake and pond water quality throughout the SNEP region using satellite imagery-based techniques. The model will incorporate historic water quality data as well as data collected under this grant.
Support for the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program
The Buzzards Bay NEP ($250,000): The grant will further work under their Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program receives annual funding to assist in implementing elements of their Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) aligned with SNEP goals.
U.S. Geological Survey ($300,000): USGS will continue collaboration with EPA on ground and surface water monitoring in support of innovative/alternative septic system installations in Marston’s Mills MA (funded by EPA’s Office of Research and Development) and also study the effect of sewering on groundwater nitrogen concentration in Wickford, RI and Falmouth, MA, though sampling and modeling.
“Massachusetts’ senior elected officials continue to do a fantastic job crafting great solutions for the challenges facing our coastal waters – and this funding is a result of their hard work and creativity,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “These projects announced today will advance EPA’s and the Commonwealth’s commitment to investing in underserved communities.”
Technical Assistance through SNEP Network
- Town of Swansea – Swansea will receive technical assistance for improving water quality in the Cole River Estuary by mitigating untreated stormwater and fertilizer runoff. The Southeast Region Planning Economic Development District and Save the Bay will partner with the Town on this project.
- Town of Westport – Westport will receive technical assistance to enhance stormwater treatment by improving an existing drainage ditch and eroded basin. Kim Groff Consulting and the Southeast Region Planning Economic Development District will partner with the Town on this project.
- Town of Millville – Millville will receive technical assistance in developing a prioritization framework to help the town prioritize stormwater sites identified in their Hazard Mitigation Plan, conduct preliminary site visits to the top priority sites, and develop a conceptual design for a stormwater retrofit that will be presented to the town selectboard. The Blackstone Watershed Collaborative will partner with the Town on this project.
“Over the past four years, the SNEP Network has worked with over 70 Southeast New England municipalities, tribes and organizations on projects and helped 8 communities secure over $2M to advance their climate resilient projects,” said SNEP Network Director Martha Sheils.
“In this fifth year, we are excited to continue our capacity building efforts by awarding technical assistance to three Massachusetts communities, two of which will participate in our popular Stormwater Planning Series designed to guide communities through developing a conceptual design for a nature-based stormwater retrofit tailored to their community needs,” she concluded.
Photo courtesy of the Town of Millville.