- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Announces New Water Quality Monitoring Grant Program
Edmund Coletta, MassDEP – Director of Public Affairs
BOSTON — The Baker-Polito Administration today announced that up to $200,000 in funding is available to watershed monitoring groups across the Commonwealth to help them test rivers, lakes and ponds, and coastal resources for bacteria and other contaminants. The new Watershed Group Monitoring Grant program is being offered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to support watershed groups with baseline monitoring program activities and to help those groups build sampling capabilities. This grant program is part of a $450,000 increase in state funding that will be dedicated to increasing capacity in water quality monitoring and assessment.
“Improving the water quality of our river, streams, lakes and ponds will help ensure our waters are safe for the public to enjoy recreational activities,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “By providing more funding for water quality monitoring across the Commonwealth, we can better protect our natural resources from pollutants.”
“In order to protect waterways across the Commonwealth, we need to utilize the newest data and the latest science to inform our resource protection efforts,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “We are proud to offer this new funding to support regional monitoring groups’ important work to preserve the Commonwealth’s natural resources.”
Each grant will fund up to $15,000 in monitoring project support, and the resulting enhanced water quality data will help MassDEP implement program requirements for the federal Clean Water Act. The grant program will be made available to eligible non-profits organizations, including watershed groups, academic institutions, and others with surface water quality monitoring capacity.
“We are grateful to regional stakeholder groups that regularly monitor for contaminants in our rivers, lakes and surface waters, and our partnership in this effort is strengthened by the grants being made available today through this innovative new program,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton.
“Over many years, regional watershed organizations have been doing great work collecting data on water quality across the state,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “These new grants will support and enhance the actions of watershed groups with existing bacteria monitoring programs, as well as assist groups that wish to develop or expand their monitoring programs.”
To assist watershed groups with their applications for the monitoring grants, MassDEP’s Watershed Planning Program will present an overview of the grant process on Thursday, December 6, 2018 at 10 a.m. in MassDEP’s Central Regional Office, 8 New Bond St., Worcester. The informational meeting will include a Q&A session.
“Data collection and local knowledge are crucial tools in the effective management of our waterways, and so I am pleased to see these grants being offered across the state,” said State Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Our environmental future lies in attending carefully to every detail, from innovative policy to the smallest sample of our rivers and streams. I look forward to seeing this program rolled out in the coming year.”
“Any investments that can be made to get a better assessment of our watersheds are critical for future planning and protection and will help to ensure sustainability into the future,” said State Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), Senate Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.
“Regional and community-based watershed organizations play a critical role in monitoring the quality of our local waterways to ensure they are safe for swimming and other recreational activities,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading). “The financial assistance provided through this new grant program will further enhance the important work they do to protect our natural resources.”
“I’m proud of the Commonwealth for recognizing the important work of all local watershed quality monitoring groups and for continuing to invest in them through this new grant opportunity. I thank the Baker-Polito Administration for establishing the Watershed Group Monitoring Grant Program and look forward to the high quality and quantity of data that this funding will help provide to MassDEP,” said State Representative Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox), House Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “I have always been a big proponent of local engagement, and I’m glad to see the Administration introducing a grant that will boost the local-level testing of our lakes, rivers, and waterways.”
Watersheds across the Commonwealth must be assessed every two years. However, many water bodies are not assessed for one or more uses – such as primary or secondary recreation or aquatic life – in any given assessment cycle, and many small or unnamed streams and ponds have never been monitored or assessed. Also, many water bodies that have been assessed in the past are in need of updated information to determine their current condition. It is anticipated that this grant program will increase the availability of bacteria data that is used to determine the condition of surface waters within the state.
“This is great news for our state’s rivers and for local groups that care for them,” said Julia Blatt, executive director of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, a statewide group that advocates for river health. “Bacteria monitoring programs can tell us if our rivers are safe for swimming and other recreation, and can help pinpoint sources of pollution. Citizen groups are also the best deal around – a relatively small investment of state money will yield tremendous returns in terms of data collected and volunteer engagement in river protection. We look forward to a productive partnership with MassDEP with this new program.”
“We are thrilled to see the state investing in watershed groups through this new program,” said Emily Norton, executive director of the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA). “CRWA and other watershed groups are uniquely positioned to recruit, train and mobilize volunteers all across the watershed. CRWA collects over 425 bacteria samples per year; while MassDEP, due to limited resources and a state-wide purview, collects samples in a limited number of watersheds in any given year. By leveraging the expertise of groups like ours, the state will have a current and robust dataset available for decision-making.”
“The Commonwealth is making an excellent investment by building local capacity in monitoring. Water quality monitoring is the only way we can know if our rivers are safe for fishing, boating and swimming,” said Alison Field-Juma, executive director of OARS, the watershed organization for the Assabet, Sudbury and Concord Rivers. “It also tells us if there is a problem and helps town, state and federal governments find effective solutions. We are very pleased that the Commonwealth will be supporting this cost-effective way to help restore the health of our rivers from which we will all benefit.”
To recognize the value of state partnerships with watershed groups and other external data collectors, the funding balance of $250,000 will be used to build monitoring capacity. This will include improving the process that external data collectors use to develop state-required quality assurance monitoring project plans, as well as provide technical assistance and training to watershed groups on data management. MassDEP will provide more information on opportunities for technical assistance during the December 6 meeting.
For more information on MassDEP’s watershed monitoring and assessment programs, turn here.