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Clean water, healthy watersheds, and vibrant coastal ecosystems are essential to the communities of Southeast New England — a foundation of our region’s prosperity and quality of life. In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, clean water and healthy coastal ecosystems generate billions of dollars in economic value through beach-going, fishing, tourism, and many other uses. Yet despite recent improvements, water pollution and ecosystem degradation threaten our most important natural assets.

In 2012, at the direction of Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the Southeast New England Program (SNEP), a comprehensive effort to restore and protect the region’s coastal waters and watersheds. SNEP works in partnership with stakeholders in these states to promote a resilient ecosystem of clean water, healthy diverse habitats, and sustainable communities in Southeast New England. 

About the Grants Program

“We are excited to see communities and organizations working together to improve water quality and coastal habitat throughout Southeast New England. This is important economically, and for the region’s quality of life.” Jeff Benoit, RAE President & CEO

To help restore clean water and healthy ecosystems to Southeast New England, Restore America’s Estuaries, with financial support from the EPA, launched the 2018 Southeast New England Program (SNEP) Watershed Grants. The grants target water pollution, habitat degradation, and other high-priority environmental issues, in order to foster sustainable coastal and watershed communities.

The geographic region eligible for SNEP Watershed Grants extends from Westerly, RI to Pleasant Bay on Cape Cod, encompassing the major estuaries of Narragansett Bay and Buzzards Bay, and their watershed lands as far north as Worcester, Mass. It includes the south shore of Cape Cod as well as Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Block Island and the Elizabeth Islands. Please refer to this interactive map of the SNEP Region.

2018 SNEP Watershed Grants target integrated approaches to water quality and ecosystem restoration. SNEP recognizes that clean water, healthy habitats, resilient ecosystems, and prosperous communities are closely interconnected, and that strong partnerships offer the most effective means of meeting Southeast New England’s environmental challenges. 

Past rounds of SNEP grants have funded a variety of successful projects to restore clean water and coastal ecosystems. One priority is nutrient pollution to coastal waters. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus harm coastal ecosystems throughout Southeast New England by fertilizing excess growth of seaweeds, plankton, and other algae. This reduces the oxygen in the water that fish and shellfish need to survive; degrades coastal habitats such as salt marshes and marine bottoms; and can catalyze outbreaks of toxic algae that pose acute health risks to humans and wildlife. SNEP grants for innovative approaches to storm water management, septic system research and coastal resilience are already helping Southeast New England communities tackle such pressing environmental issues. SNEP seeks to fund partnerships in order to leverage the resources of state, local, academic, corporate, non-profit and tribal organizations.

2018 Watershed Grants

The 2018 SNEP Watershed Grants are providing more than $2 million for critically important projects in Rhode Island, including:

  • Town of Bristol to restore Silver Creek on Bristol Harbor through wetland restoration adjacent to a municipal golf course ($300,000);
  • City of Pawtucket to build a “green and complete street” – integrating clean water, transportation improvements, and urban redevelopment – adjacent to a new rail station ($376,000);
  • RI Dept. of Environmental Management (RIDEM) to upgrade environmental monitoring equipment in Narragansett Bay ($300,000);
  • Save The Bay to restore clean water in Hundred Acre Cove in Upper Narragansett Bay ($132,000);
  • University of Rhode Island for a scientific study of groundwater pollution to Narragansett Bay and the South Shore salt ponds ($475,000); and
  • RIDEM to work with the State of Connecticut on restoring the Pawcatuck River Estuary and Little Narragansett Bay ($450,000).

In Massachusetts, the grants are funding more than $2.1 million in high-priority projects, including:

  • Association to Preserve Cape Cod to restore water quality in the Three Bays estuary in Barnstable through an innovative watershed management program ($350,000);
  • Buzzards Bay Coalition to reduce nitrogen pollution to Upper Buzzards Bay and foster economic development by leading a project to expand the capacity of the Wareham wastewater treatment facility ($419,000);
  • Cape Cod Commission to develop a Cape-wide water quality database and management system, to support clean water restoration efforts by federal, state and local organizations ($400,000);
  • Falmouth Rod & Gun Club to restore native wetland habitat in a former cranberry bog while restoring brook trout habitat in Falmouth and Mashpee ($450,000);
  • Martha’s Vineyard Commission to install and test an innovative new technology for reducing groundwater pollution to Lagoon Pond on Martha’s Vineyard ($250,000); and
  • Pleasant Bay Alliance to restore water quality in Cape Cod’s largest estuary by leading a coordinated program among the Towns of Brewster, Chatham, Harwich and Orleans ($250,000).

In addition, 2018 SNEP Watershed Grants are funding $350,000 in interstate projects:

The grants were announced in September at events at Pawtucket City Hall in Pawtucket, RI, and Mass. Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, MA. The Rhode Island event featured Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse; Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline; EPA Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn; and RIDEM Director Janet Coit. The Massachusetts event featured Congressman Bill Keating; Regional Administrator Dunn; Deputy Commissioner Gary Moran of the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection; and Rear Admiral Francis X. McDonald, President of Mass. Maritime Academy.

For more information about the 2018 SNEP Watershed Grants, contact Thomas Ardito, Program Director, at tardito@estuaries.org or 401-575-6109.