On Friday Sept. 16, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Sen. Jack Reed announced a $1 million grant to the communities of Aquidneck Island for an innovative new program to protect and restore fresh and salt water quality on Aquidneck Island, according to a release from the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC). The three-year program was developed by the AIPC in partnership with the City of Newport, Towns of Middletown and Portsmouth, Aquidneck Land Trust, and Clean Ocean Access.
The grant is aimed at reducing storm water runoff, which washes pollution into drinking water reservoirs and coastal waters on and around Aquidneck Island. Storm water is a problem for water quality throughout the U.S.; however with relatively little protected watershed, large surface reservoirs, and some of the state’s most popular recreational beaches, Aquidneck Island is uniquely vulnerable to this type of pollution.
“Island Waters” will develop an inter-municipal partnership to help the communities develop more effective ways of managing storm water. For example, the partners will work together to identify, design and build high-priority storm water improvements Island-wide, and will look to share resources and training. While much of the “Island Waters” grant is for engineering and construction, the project also includes a storm water financing plan and extensive outreach to homeowners and other Island stakeholders.
“Island Waters” builds on extensive work by all three Aquidneck Island communities in recent years to improve storm water management and financing, including new watershed studies commissioned by Middletown and Newport, a storm water financing study by Middletown, and the establishment by Portsmouth of a wastewater management district. The project will also take advantage of recent work by Clean Ocean Access to test storm water for pathogens that threaten human health, and watershed conservation planning by the Aquidneck Land Trust. The partners will work closely with the state Dept. of Environmental Management, Dept. of Transportation and Eastern RI Conservation District to implement the project.
“The three Aquidneck Island communities – and the Navy – share a single drinking water system, while all three municipalities contribute runoff to our reservoirs and coastal waters,” said Julia Forgue, P.E., Director of Utilities for the City of Newport. “The City welcomes the opportunity to work more closely with our Island neighbors to ensure clean, safe waters for residents and visitors.”
“Clean water is very important to Middletown residents, and the Town has been working hard to reduce storm water pollution from public roads, for example through the work we’re doing in the Maidford River watershed and at Second Beach,” said Shawn J. Brown, Middletown Town Administrator. “This grant will help further implement our watershed plans.”
“Through our new wastewater management district, Portsmouth is reducing septic system pollution, and this grant will help us eliminate illegal discharges to coastal waters,” said Richard A. Rainer, Jr., Portsmouth Town Administrator. “Moreover, the ‘Island Waters’ project will help Portsmouth to reduce pollution into the Island’s drinking water system.”
The project is funded by EPA’s Southeast New England Coastal Watershed Program, with additional funds from all six municipal and non-profit partners. The grant is providing $996,820 in federal funding toward a total project cost of $1,164,620. The partners are providing $167,800 in municipal & private match, much of it as “in-kind” match through staff support.
Editorial note: Written from a news release.