The Narragansett Bay Estuary Program assists our partners in Massachusetts and Rhode Island through grants to advance projects throughout the Narragansett Bay watershed. Over the past two years, the Estuary Program and our host entity, the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), helped issue over $1.4 million in grants as part of EPA’s Southeast New England Program. In addition, the Estuary Program also has allocated operating funds as part of our National Estuary Program funding to support local projects and research throughout the watershed.

The various types of projects that were funded through the Estuary Program and NEIWPCC can be found below:

Stormwater pollution is a major issue for the health for the health of the Narragansett Bay and its watershed. Municipalities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island are working, many with assistance from nonprofits and community groups, to install stormwater treatment systems to help protect and restore water quality. The Estuary Program and NEIWPCC have funded the following stormwater projects:

Stormwater outfall pipes in Stillhouse Cove, Cranston, RI

Stormwater outfall pipes in Stillhouse Cove, Cranston, RI – Wenley Ferguson, Save The Bay

The City of Cranston is building stormwater infiltration projects in the Stillhouse Cove portion of the Providence River.  Stillhouse Cove experiences severe algal blooms during the summer due to excess nutrients.  The project will also include planning assistance, public outreach, and education through Cranston’s partners: Save The Bay and the Edgewood Waterfront Preservation Association. Check out the press coverage of the project and see the project poster here and the final report.

The City of East Providence is building a stormwater mitigation project at Sabin Point Park on the Providence River to help address elevated bacterial levels. Sabin Point Park is a popular urban park yet swimming has not been allowed in decades. The City received funding through the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to complete the design for the stormwater project.  The City will partner with Brown University and the Rhode Island Department of Health staff to monitor nutrient and bacteria levels to assess the effectiveness of the project.  In addition, Save The Bay will provide outreach to the surrounding communities regarding controls to stormwater runoff.

The City of Warwick installed a series of bioretention basins and vegetated swales within the medians of Suburban Parkway to help improve water quality in the vicinity of Oakland Beach and City Park Beach. The total project is approximately 2,000 feet long, on City‐owned property, and it will help reduce the amount of contaminants entering Greenwich Bay. The City hired a design group to design the project using Community Development Block Grant funding. See the press coverage, project poster, and the final report.

The Town of North Kingstown built a rain garden at the North Kingstown Free Library to treat stormwater before it enters Academy Cove, and ultimately Wickford Harbor. The Harbor is impaired by a lack of dissolved oxygen that threatens aquatic life. The project includes the rain garden, a pervious path, educational signage, and brochures. The project was accomplished using volunteers and staff from the Town of North Kingstown. See article in the North Kingstown Patch and the final rain garden brochure

Rain garden installed at the North Kingstown Free Library

Rain garden installed at the North Kingstown Free Library. – Town of North Kingstown


2017 Bay and Watershed Research Program: These grants will support researchers in the Narragansett Bay Watershed, with a focus on projects to address major data gaps and research needs specifically identified in the 2017 State of the Narragansett Bay and Its Watershed Technical Report.. These grants are funded through the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Research Grants Program will bring together partnerships to protect and restore the coastal watersheds of southeast New England from Westerly, Rhode Island to Chatham, Massachusetts, including Narragansett Bay and all other Rhode Island coastal waters, Buzzards Bay, and southern Cape Cod. The funded projects this year are summarized below:

Dr. John King, at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography will conduct a Sediment Profile Imagery Survey to Evaluate Benthic Habitat Quality in Narragansett Bay. This project will monitor change benthic habitat quality by rerunning a Bay-wide Sediment Profile Imagery (SPI) survey that was previously run in 1988 and 2008, and will add several new stations. Shumchenia et al (2016) showed improvements in the benthic habitat quality of the Bay between these surveys. However, these surveys need to be run more frequently, and a new survey will be able to fill in more data gaps.

Dr. Pete August, at the University of Rhode Island Natural Resources Sciences Department will conduct a High Resolution Salt Marsh Mapping Using Un-manned Aerial Systems. This project will collect high resolution (~10 cm pixel size) imagery using small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) which is valuable, yet cost-effective. This means more opportunity for monitoring changes in extent and composition of salt marsh habitats over time. These images will be used for interpretation of salt marsh vegetation. These data will directly address the gaps identified in the State of Narragansett Bay Technical Report. Specifically, these data will support the Tier 1 salt marsh monitoring and assessment plan put forth by Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and other partners in the area.

Dan Codiga’s project will provide Further Analysis and Synthesis of Bay Oxygen, Chlorophyll, and Temperature. The final product will provide several related analyses of oxygen, chlorophyll, and temperature in the Narragansett Bay Watershed—at sites from Phillipsdale Landing in the Seekonk River to the southern end of Prudence Island— and will build on prior understanding and create products in support of NBEP scientific research. Objectives and tasks address gaps that were identified by the 2017 State of Narragansett Bay and Its Watershed report. Benefits include improved understanding of variability and long-term trends in oxygen, chlorophyll, and temperature.

Clean Ocean Access will study Research Needs for Marine Beaches. The project aims to advance the understanding of bacteria at high recreational use beaches in Rhode Island to improve public health and provide a model for future other locations in the Narragansett Bay. The benefit of this study is improved insight into the 15+ years of microbiology data set of Enterococci levels at high usage recreational areas along with relationships of bacterial counts and antecedent rain using advanced statistical analysis software developed and supported by US EPA.

Education and outreach is critical for understanding and alerting the public about the Narragansett Bay watershed and what can be done to restore and protect this valuable resource. These projects will allow nonprofits and other outreach groups to spread knowledge and awareness about various issues in the watershed.

The Estuary Program and NEIWPCC have funded the following research and education projects:

Save The Bay's education programs on Narragansett Bay

Save The Bay’s education programs on Narragansett Bay – Save The Bay

The University of Rhode Island’s Laboratory of Soil Ecology and Microbiology conducted research on Optimizing Performance of Existing Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems. URI’s project optimized the performance of existing onsite wastewater treatment systems within the greater Narragansett Bay watershed to reduce nitrogen inputs. To achieve this goal, URI collected data on effluent nitrogen levels and developed a statistical model to help service providers optimize nitrogen removal. See the project poster, and the final report

The Northern Rhode Island Conservation District  lead the Moswansicut Reservoir Phosphorus Project to educate the public of the importance of protecting the Moswansicut Reservoir – a small tributary reservoir of the Scituate Reservoir, Rhode Island’s largest supply of drinking water. The reservoir, once a natural lake, is at risk of eutrophication and increased incidence of harmful algal blooms due to phosphorus loading from its watershed. The District implemented targeted outreach programs, created a volunteer water quality monitoring program, and created an in-water nutrient activation treatment plan for the reservoir. The partners in this project include The University of Rhode Island Watershed Watch and Providence Water. Read the ecoRI article on this project, the project poster, and the final report

Save The Bay completed a Ribbed Mussel Nutrient Bioextraction Pilot Project to study how ribbed mussels remove nutrient pollution in upper Narragansett Bay. Using three different techniques for growing ribbed mussels, Save The Bay analyzed the mussels’ efficiency in removing nutrients. Through analysis of water samples, the project measured the rates of nutrient bioextraction. See the project poster, and the final report.

Save The Bay completed a public education and awareness campaign focusing on the water quality and water supplies for the 67,000 residents of Aquidneck Island. Save The Bay’s communications staff developed content for Bay Friendly Living, a publication for residents and businesses on Aquidneck Island.

The Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council completed a public school curriculum for 4th graders, “Fish in the Classroom”, with a focus on stormwater discharges to restore the urban sections of the Woonasquatucket River and Narragansett Bay. This education project also included public art with North Providence High School designing storm drain paintings and murals and youth leadership development for high school students in science education at the Met School in Providence. See the Valley Breeze article , our Partner Spotlight, and the final report.

Monitoring and improving natural habitat for plants and animals within the Narragansett Bay watershed is essential to restoring ecosystems. With a better understanding of the various habitats supported by the Bay and the watershed, towns and other groups can implement strategies to better manage, protect, and restore these areas. The Estuary Program and NEIWPCC have funded the following projects to help protect and restore habitat:

Mill Turner Dam removal on the Nissitissit River

Mill Turner Dam removal on the Nissitissit River. – Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration

The Pawtuxet River Authority was awarded funding for two projects. The first was a fish passage project to encourage spawning in Cranberry Pond in Warwick and Blackamore Pond in Cranston. The project was designed to build upon the Pawtuxet Falls dam removal , completed in 2011, and assess whether additional fish passage can be created in these ponds. The Pawtuxet River Authority examined fish habitat and stream flow conditions at each pond and assessed the feasibility of removing barriers and restoring fish passage. The second grant allowed for the purchase of a utility trailer to transport equipment for river clean-ups and debris removals at recreation sites along the Pawtuxet River. See the article on this project in the Cranston Patch. See the final dam removal report here.

The Town of Barrington collected water quality and sediment data and designed green infrastructure projects in and around Brickyard Pond to address water quality impairments. Connected to Narragansett Bay through Mussachuck Creek, Brickyard Pond hosts an annual run of anadromous river herring. The Town completed a conceptual design study for green infrastructure/stormwater best management practices for five Town-owned priority outfalls.  The Town’s goal is to significantly reduce phosphorus loadings to support a healthy ecology in Brickyard Pond. See the final project report here.

The Town of Jamestown builtan innovative stormwater system to protect Sheffield Cove to help restore local shellfish beds.  Shellfishing in the Cove was closed in 2009 due to excessive bacterial contamination.  The project consists of a combination of bioretention and sand filtration to treat pathogens from stormwater and dry-weather background flows. Jamestown also conducted sampling using microbial source tracking (DNA fingerprinting) to differentiate specific impacts from various source types such as wildlife and domestic animals. See the Jamestown Press article on the project. See the project poster here and the final report

Water quality planning is essential to help identify sources of pollutants and develop plans that can be implemented to restore the health of a watershed. The Estuary Program and NEIWPCC have funded the following projects to help town and nonprofits develop water quality plans:

Newport bridge with boaters

Boaters enjoying the Narragansett Bay, Newport Bridge seen in background. – The Estuary Program

The Town of Hopedale’s Park Commission designed solutions to remedy pollution coming from stormwater outfalls into in Hopedale Pond that have closed Hopedale Beach for swimming the past several years. The Parks Commission plans to use using green infrastructure retrofits, pet waste management, and waterfowl management. This project included the conceptual design of a grassed bioretention basin system in Hopedale Town Park. Read the final report.

The City of Pawtucket focused on stormwater mapping and green infrastructure design to prioritize projects for the City’s 45 stormwater outfalls. The City characterized the outfall drainage areas (soils groups, impervious cover, topography) and then selected the 10 most important drainage areas.  The priority sites underwent intensive field assessment of catch basins, manholes, and interconnected drain lines.  The City prepared conceptual designs for future stormwater improvement projects. See the Providence Journal’s article on the Pawtucket project. See the project poster, the video, and final report

The Town of Westerly identified prioritized, and implemented water quality improvements in Little Narragansett Bay and the lower portion of the Pawcatuck River.  Presently, these waters have high nutrient loads, elevated bacteria levels, lower water clarity, and low dissolved oxygen concentrations. This grant supported the Town’s work with Save The Bay to identify pollutant sources and develop an implementation plan to address the Phase 1 study area, which includes downtown Westerly. This plan includes recommendations for both structural and non-structural water quality improvements and an interactive map showing the results. See the Westerly Sun’s article and the Implementation Project Phase 1.

Clean Ocean Access is identifying sources of bacteria and pathogens impacting Easton’s Beach through their project, Stormwater pathogens – Find it and Fix it.  The goal is to track down the sources of bacteria that close the beach to swimming and develop solutions to fix these recurring problems. The project will include water quality testing and sediment sampling at key locations during dry-weather (low flow of stormwater) and wet-weather (high flow of stormwater) events. This project includes a partnership with the City of Newport, the Town of Middletown, and the Rhode Island Department of Health. See the Newport Daily News article on this project. See the project poster here and the final report

The Town of East Bridgewater examined creative solutions to provide limited sewer extensions to serve the densely developed town center. East Bridgewater High School’s existing wastewater treatment facility has the opportunity to serve additional downtown properties. This project aimed to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus contributions to nearby surface waters, including Meadow Brook, Salisbury Plain River, and Matfield River. The Board of Health reviewed the capacity of the High School Treatment Facility, assessed the flows from other town buildings, projected available system capacity for serving town center properties, and developed a Capital Improvements Plan for limited sewer service areas. See the final summary report here.

The Town of Halifax identified, mapped, and prioritized the stormwater outfalls and other sources discharging to the East and West Monponsett Ponds (in the Taunton River watershed). The ponds are relatively shallow and provide drinking water, fisheries, flood control, and recreation.  Significant levels of pollutants have resulted in algal blooms which have closed beaches and caused fish kills.  The Board of Health’s project included field verification and mapping of outfalls, prioritization and conceptual design for sites, and permit level design and cost estimates for the three highest priority sites. The partners on this project include the Monponsett Watershed Association and the Massachusetts Division of Ecologic Restoration. See the article in ecoRI highlighting the Halifax project and a follow up article here. See the project poster here. View the final report here.

The City of Newport completed a feasibility study to find ways to control nutrient loadings to two drinking water sources, St. Mary’s Pond and Watson Reservoir. The goal of the Source Water Phosphorus Reduction Feasibility Plan is to restore degraded water quality, protect watershed health, assess pollutant sources, and help to identify and prioritize management efforts. Newport worked with Middletown and Portsmouth to better understand the problems at the sources and coordinate control efforts. The outcome of this project is a phosphorus reduction plan to improve water quality in the two impaired drinking water sources which can be found here. Read the EcoRI news article here

Mass Audubon developed the Shaping the Future of Your Community Outreach & Assistance Program to provide smart growth workshops and technical assistance to address the fastest growing municipalities in the Blackstone River watershed in Massachusetts. Five communities were selected (Auburn, Grafton Mendon, Millbury, and Worcester) to receive technical assistance for local Low Impact Development (LID) and land use planning projects to improve water quality and stormwater management. This technical assistance is provided with Audubon’s partners Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission, Horsley Witten Group and the Blackstone River Coalition.

The Town of Avon examined stormwater pollution to an important local waterway – Trout Brook.  The Town of Avon relies on multiple groundwater sources and the Town’s wells rely exclusively on the recharge of stormwater as the source of fresh water. They assessed potential contributions to the impairments in the Trout Brook watershed, including examining stormwater outfalls that discharge directly into Trout Brook.  The analysis includes land-use surveys within the five largest catchment areas and water quality sampling to assess discharges to Trout Brook.  The project also includes a preliminary design of stormwater projects for nutrient and pathogen removal. See the project poster here and the final report

There are several ways to enjoy the public trust resources within Narragansett Bay watershed and it is important that the public has ways to access to these resources. The Estuary Program and NEIWPCC have funded the following projects to make sure the public can access and enjoy public trust resource.


A surfer catches a wave – Ayla Fox

Clean Ocean Access focused on increasing public access to the shoreline of Aquidneck Island. Their project promoted, preserved, and ensured recreational uses along the coastline, such as for fishing, boating, swimming, surfing, and walking. They worked in Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth to protect and monitor the rights-of-way and provided proper signage for the access points. Clean Ocean Access used volunteers to provide monitoring twice a month to connect people to and promote stewardship of our shoreline resources. See the article in Newport Patch and see the final report here

Save The Bay partnered with Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council to have volunteers and interns conduct site visits to the 221 State-designated shoreline rights-of-way. The project documented the sites and current conditions to examine whether public access needs to be restored or improved. This helped identify sites for the State’s Adopt-An-Access program. See the final report here.