EPA has awarded $1,345,000 million in grants to strengthen the capacity of the states to protect and restore wetlands. The Wetland Program Development Grants provide interstate agencies, tribes, and nonprofit organizations with funding to develop and refine comprehensive state and local wetlands programs. Supplemental funding for these projects will be awarded in FY18 but the amounts will be budget dependent.
“These grants are a good example of our productive relationship with state partners, achieving meaningful environmental benefits for American communities by working collaboratively,” says Deb Szaro, acting regional administrator for EPA’s New England office. “Protecting wetlands is a cost-effective way to help communities take advantage of the significant benefits provided by healthy wetlands: buffering from storms and flooding, filtering stormwater, protecting habitat and offering recreational enjoyment.”
This year, EPA has awarded funding for ten projects to protect, manage, and restore wetlands. These grants assist state, tribal, and local government agencies in building programs, which protect, manage, and restore wetlands. Wetlands are valuable resources that are vital to the health of our waterways and communities. Healthy wetlands perform important ecological functions, such as feeding downstream waters, trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, removing pollution, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife. Wetlands also help our economy because of their key role in fishing, hunting, agriculture, and recreation. The funded grants are:
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) was awarded $97,500 to advance and improve Connecticut’s wetland condition through planning, regulatory, and outreach approaches that increase the knowledge of wetland stakeholders. CT DEEP will refine their wetland program plan to be aligned with the department’s recent restructuring. Final products of this grant include: 1) a redeveloped Wetland Program Plan; 2) refined DEEP Land and Water Resources Division standard operating procedures that address the integration of inland and tidal wetland regulatory functions; 3) workshops and educational materials for municipal officials to improve knowledge and increase skills facilitating consistent management and protection of wetlands and watercourses; 4) a report, including maps and policy recommendations, which assesses the regulatory viability of tidal wetland setbacks; 5) a workshop discussing expected response of Connecticut’s 20 largest coastal wetland complexes; 6) GIS data sets identifying significant coastal marsh migration areas, road flooding frequencies, and suitable areas for creating new marsh; and 7) a marsh migration land conservation plan describing ecological significance, threats, and opportunities to accommodate migration.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection was awarded $75,000 to better protect wetlands and aquatic resources. MA DEP will undertake tasks to align Massachusetts state stormwater standards, requirements, and certifications with the EPA Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) General Permit, which will come into effect on July 1, 2018 for 249 communities. The following major tasks will be accomplished: 1) Perform research, analyze options, and evaluate choices for aligning the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act and Municipal Separate Storm Sewer General Permit requirements; 2) Convene a Stormwater Management Technical Advisory Committee to provide input in resolving Wetland Protection Act and Water Quality Certification inconsistencies; 3) Conduct outreach and provide technical assistance with MS4 communities and statewide stormwater coalitions; 4) Update and revise the Massachusetts Stormwater Management Handbook and the Massachusetts Hydrology Manual; and 5) Provide workshops and training for towns and coalitions.
Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Office was awarded $73,803 to use modeling data to characterize coastal wetland migration corridors and to use this information to improve land use planning efforts in the area. This project will expand the areal scope of existing site monitoring and mapping efforts by integrating historical image data and by performing change analysis on the image data.
The University of Massachusetts (Amherst) was awarded $148,660 to collect wetlands data during critical times and test the potential of using various sensors to assess vegetation health/stress and physical characteristics of salt marshes. The collected data will be calibrated, and assessments validated, using data collected on the ground. The goal is to use unmanned aerial systems to assess the physical and biological condition of salt marshes.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection Biological Monitoring Program was awarded $174,597 for using wetland biomonitoring results to support agency decision-making. The biological monitoring program proposes to develop and refine the State’s wetland program in accordance with the Maine Wetland Program Plan. The overall goal of this project is to improve the ability of water quality protection agencies and programs to access and use biological monitoring and assessment results to inform regulatory and management decisions. Major components of the project include: 1) Developing and refining numeric aquatic life use criteria, including completion of phytoplankton criteria for emergent wetlands, 2) Upgrading DEP’s water quality and spatial databases to include new automated functionality for data analysis, monitoring reports and biocriteria attainment results. Information will be made publicly available on the BMP web pages and Google Earth site, 3) Continued development of vegetative indicators, assessment protocols and condition metrics, including for forested wetlands and aquatic macrophytes, 4) Refining the process and criteria for identifying high quality reference (minimally-disturbed) wetlands throughout the state for use in a long-term monitoring network and 5) Identifying appropriate restoration/mitigation/protection sites to evaluate based on state aquatic life use criteria.
The Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation & Forestry was awarded $198,573 to: develop a monitoring and assessment strategy consistent with elements of a state water monitoring and assessment program; 2) Implement a sustainable monitoring program consistent with the wetlands monitoring strategy; 3) Continue to consistently define restoration and protection goals throughout the State; 4) Protect wetlands from degradation or destruction.
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services was awarded $175,000 to perform activities from the New Hampshire Wetland Program Plan (NHWPP) that build on recent work relative to updating baseline wetlands data, monitoring and assessment, and outreach. The main objectives of this proposal are to update and enhance the information on the extent of wetlands across the state, to identify high value wetland resources and exemplary natural communities, to develop tools to assess wetland condition, and to disseminate this information to stakeholders. The workplan components will 1) update and enhance wetland resource data and tools, including NWI+ maps, and create high value wetland maps for decision making relative to permitting, land protection, and the assessment or protection of high value wetland and aquatic resources; 2) update natural plant community information to develop Floristic Quality Assessment thresholds for wetland condition and support the development of wetland-specific water quality standards, and 3) disseminate the updated information for use by professionals, wetland scientists, and those in land use planning and land protection.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management was awarded $170,985 to develop a statewide reference guide for salt marshes and a freshwater wetland condition reference gradient to enhance interpretation and application of field data leading to improved prioritization of future projects. These projects include the creation of local tidal datums for 20 sites which will help support vulnerability analysis, as well as protocols, reports, and technical memorandum.
The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation was awarded $192,868 to work on the development of their monitoring and assessment core element of the Vermont Wetland Program Plan with a focus on improving wetland mapping in the state. Specific actions include field monitoring of Vermont wetlands and integrating Vermont Wetlands Program monitoring and assessment efforts with other VT DEC efforts. Regulatory actions include adopting regulations or rules to implement statutes, public outreach activities, and corporative efforts with federal partners to ensure a unified regulatory approach.
A second grant of $38,014 to the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation will help the State of VT assess and map wetlands within the Missiquoi Basin to prioritize sites for restoration and conservation to ameliorate phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain. The main tasks are to produce high quality NWI + level mapping of the Missisquoi subbasin, field-review the accuracy of the mapping, and create outreach materials for local municipalities. The updated maps will be used by entities currently creating conservation and restoration modeling in the Lake Champlain basin.