Vermont Business Magazine EPA has awarded $3.3 million in grants to strengthen the capacity of states and tribes to protect and restore wetlands, including $287,000 to Vermont. The Wetland Program Development Grants provide interstate agencies, tribes, and nonprofit organizations with funding to develop and refine comprehensive state, tribal, and local wetlands programs. While monies for these project came from 2015 and 2016 allotments, EPA will soon release a request for projects to be funded with 2017 and 2018 funding.
EPA believes these grants are a good example of our productive relationship with state partners, achieving meaningful environmental benefits for American communities by working collaboratively. 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.
EPA has awarded funding for 15 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 Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation was awarded $287,000 to protect ecologically significant wetlands, create a permit compliance system, increase voluntary restoration of wetlands, and integrate wetland concerns into a plan to reduce phosphorus loads to Lake Champlain.
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection was awarded $289,000 to train and educate local decision makers through a comprehensive on-line training course and continuing education workshops to promote wetland protection, connectivity, and resiliency through enhanced decision making.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection was awarded $360,000 to monitor and assess wetlands to provide specific recommendations on protection and restoration; create coastal hazard maps and policies for coastal resilience; and update the wetland replication and delineation guidance. This will result in increased protection and restoration of Massachusetts wetlands and provide resiliency to impacts from climate change.
Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management was awarded $172,000 to develop a program to monitor and assess long-term impacts of climate change on tidal marshes through the application of cutting edge image analysis and remote sensing techniques at permanent monitoring stations.
The New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) was awarded $45,500 to improve and refine wetland monitoring and assessment methods by providing technical and logistical support to our state and federal partners fostering the formation of joint state projects and technical transfer of scientific methods.
University of Massachusetts (Amherst) was awarded $357,000 to fund scientists who will calculate and map an index of ecological integrity (IEI) for all of New England by using a variety of landscape metrics, consider habitat quality, resilience and connectivity. Previously developed under this grant program, the Conservation Assessment and Prioritization System (CAPS) tool can be used to compare ecological consequences of various land use scenarios, or identify how to get the most ecological benefits from restoration projects. CAPS combines landscape ecology and conservation biology into a computer program that compiles spatial data and characterizes landscape condition which can be used to help evaluate impacts from development projects.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MEDEP) Biological Monitoring Program was awarded $490,000 to develop and refine indicators and wetland-specific aquatic life criteria (biocriteria) for multiple biological assemblages to enhance its ability to assess wetland condition and focus on tasks and products to develop and refine wetland-specific biological criteria supported by improved and expanded monitoring and assessment capability.
The Maine Natural Areas Program (MNAP) received funding for three projects totaling $298,000. The first will enhance the statewide wetlands monitoring and assessment strategy to identify the best wetland restoration and protection opportunities in Maine. A second project will focus on conservation planning for highly valued aquatic resources and integrated upland sites, particularly the western floodplain region of the state and south coastal areas. The third is geared toward protecting Maine wetlands from invasive plants by creating a centralized resource for invasive species information to support the efforts of land managers, state agencies, and private landowners in tracking and managing invasive species.
The town of Topsham, Maine received $106,000 in funding to undertake a local vernal pool regulatory program that will complement federal and state oversight of vernal pools through the adoption of a vernal pool Special Area Management Plan (VP SAMP) being developed with federal, state, and other partners. This will ultimately result in the creation of a local vernal pool conservation program.
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) was awarded $352,000 to develop a wetland monitoring and assessment program that can be used to implement wetland-specific water quality standards. DES will investigate the development of numeric biocriteria thresholds for aquatic life use, evaluate historical wetland records for their applicability for use in environmental review, and support development of floristic quality assessment (FQA) thresholds for interpreting scores specific to wetland types in the state. FQA is a bioassessment method that uses characteristics of the plant community to derive an estimate of nativity or habitat quality.
A second grant to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services in an amount of $254,000 will be used to build resiliency to climate change throughout the state by prioritizing wetland and stream mitigation options. Through the use of technical resources and tools municipalities will be assisted in identifying and prioritizing areas that are vulnerable to threats from climate change.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management was awarded $255,000 to carry out a multi-year project to strengthen the wetland monitoring and assessments components of state programs in order to support adaptation of wetland protection and restoration programs to changing climate conditions, with an emphasis on coastal wetlands. The project will foster integration of freshwater and coastal wetland program activities in a manner that will yield improved effectiveness.
A second grant of $54,000 to the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation will create a scientifically sound methodology for sampling the potential effects and stressors solar farms have on wetlands. In recent years there has been a spate of small solar installations – mostly in agricultural wetlands. This project will result in a better understanding of impacts from solar projects and inform permitting decisions for the Department of Environmental Conservation, the solar community and other regulatory agencies.
Source: BOSTON – EPA. 3.8.2017. More information on Wetlands: https://www.epa.gov/wetlands