The Baker-Polito Administration today announced $195,000 in federally funded grant awards for projects that will protect drinking water supplies, preserve important habitat, and address pollution from stormwater runoff in the Buzzards Bay watershed. The towns of Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, Rochester, and Westport are receiving grant funding, which is being matched by over $132,000 in private contributions and in-kind services, by the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program (NEP) through the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ (EEA) Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Southeast New England Program. Funded projects include developing plans to treat stormwater pollution, purchasing 288 acres of land, including sea run brook trout habitat, and protecting drinking water supply wells.

“Since coming into office, coastal habitat and water quality protection have been important priorities for the Baker-Polito Administration,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “The grants being awarded through the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program will proactively support local efforts by bringing state and federal resources together to advance environmental protection priorities throughout the Buzzards Bay watershed.”

“Congratulations to all of the grant recipients who are working in such a directed and effective manner to actively protect habitat and increase water quality on the South Coast region,” said CZM Director Lisa Berry Engler. “CZM is excited to work with our municipal partners and the Buzzards Bay NEP as they promote these continued efforts at the local level.”

The following grants were awarded to the municipalities in the south coast region:

  • The Town of Rochester will receive $70,000 to work with the Towns of Mattapoisett, Fairhaven, Marion, and Acushnet, along with the Buzzards Bay Coalition, to purchase and permanently protect 240 acres of land important to protect the Mattapoisett River Valley aquifer. This land acquisition is part of a larger coordinated project that aims to protect thousands of acres in the Mattapoisett River Valley. The newly purchased land will protect a multi-town public drinking water supply resource, as well as wetlands, fields, forests, and habitat for fish and wildlife, and it will provide outdoor recreational opportunities for the public. In addition, the project will benefit the resiliency of the aquifer by preventing land use change and associated activities that impact water quality and disrupt groundwater recharge.
  • The Town of Mattapoisett will receive $35,000 to establish a strategic master plan for stormwater management in the Shipyard Lane area, which lies east of Mattapoisett Village and is a town priority for stormwater remediation. Stormwater runoff from this area discharges into Mattapoisett Harbor and contributes to shellfish bed closures. The town will inventory the existing infrastructure and develop a master stormwater plan specifically for the Shipyard Lane area. This master plan will serve as a vital planning tool for the design and construction phase. The project will focus on mapping the watershed to identify target areas for stormwater treatment prior to discharge into Mattapoisett Harbor.
  • The Town of Mattapoisett will receive $35,000 to work with the Mattapoisett Land Trust to purchase and permanently protect two parcels of undeveloped land totaling 14 acres in the Brandt Island Cove area of Mattapoisett. The properties consist of forested wetlands and upland coastal forests and also contain important state-designated habitat, including habitats for rare species. The Mattapoisett Land Trust intends to create a trail system, which will connect to a larger network of trails, as well as a small parking area on the property to allow for public access.
  • The Town of Westport will receive $30,000 to work with the Buzzards Bay Coalition to purchase and permanently protect 25 acres of land associated with the headwaters of Snell Creek, a tributary of the East Branch of the Westport River. Snell Creek is one of only a handful of coldwater streams in Westport that support a native population of sea run brook trout, a climate-vulnerable species that is declining throughout its range due to land use changes, habitat loss, and interactions with non-native species. Coldwater streams, such as Snell Creek, and their habitats are particularly sensitive to temperature increases, which could greatly impact sea run brook trout populations. Protection of this property will ensure the vegetated shading of the stream remains, as well as protecting vital habitats, wetlands, and water quality of Snell Creek.
  • The Town of Fairhaven will receive $25,000 to work with the Buzzards Bay Coalition to permanently protect 9 acres of land that provide a key upland buffer to wetlands and that protect important wildlife habitats, including state-designated habitat. Protection of the land will also ensure existing saltmarsh can migrate to an undeveloped area as sea-level rise begins to flood adjacent low gradient, low elevation uplands. Once acquired, the land will be open to the public for passive recreational purposes and will provide coastal public access to outer New Bedford Harbor.

“Congress declared Buzzards Bay an estuary of national significance more than 30 years ago to protect and restore its vital natural resources,” said Congressman Bill Keating (D-MA). “These grants meet that goal by protecting Buzzards Bay shellfish beds from stormwater run-off and protecting aquifers providing the drinking water for four municipalities. Ensuring that funding is available for the National Estuary Program and the Southern New England Program has long been one of my top priorities in Congress. These grants will help to continue the work of restoring and protecting Buzzards Bay.”

“Our program provides funding and technical assistance to towns and environmental groups to protect and restore water quality and living resources in Buzzards Bay,” said Buzzards Bay NEP Director Dr. Joe Costa. “These projects represent the long-term partnerships we have developed with the towns and their partners, along with the state and federal partners of the Buzzards Bay NEP.”

“As we build a more resilient Commonwealth, I want to thank the Baker-Polito Administration and our federal partners for working together with us to better protect Buzzards Bay, including prioritizing grants to vital projects in the towns of Rochester and Westport,” said State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means (D-Westport). “Because of a strong state-federal partnership, these grants will support our continued efforts to protect natural resources, preserve coastal habitat, improve water quality and promote healthier ecosystems throughout the South Coast.”

“Snell Creek is an example of our threatened environment,” said State Representative Paul A. Schmid III (D-Westport). “When sea run Brook trout disappear, they are gone forever. Thank you to the Baker-Polito leadership for helping Westport preserve its heritage.”

“Conservation efforts throughout Buzzards Bay serve as a critical protection for natural habitat that will inevitably help buffer some of the worst impacts that climate change will inflict upon our shoreline communities,” said State Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), who led the Buzzards Bay Oil Spill Commission following the devastating 2003 Bouchard oil spill. “These grants will help local municipalities protect our watershed and maintain public access to this beautiful natural treasure.”

“The mix of projects being funded in this round of grants demonstrates the range of important benefits that flow to South Coast residents and businesses from protecting waterways and water resources, and I commend our federal, state and local partners for their work in prioritizing this funding,” said State Representative William Straus (D-Mattapoisett).

The Office of Coastal Zone Management is EEA’s lead policy and planning agency on coastal and ocean issues. Created in 1985, the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program provides grants and technical assistance to Buzzards Bay watershed communities to protect and restore water quality and natural resources in Buzzards Bay and its surrounding watershed and is one of 28 similar programs designated by the EPA.