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Cape Cod Communities Increase Momentum to Improve Water Quality

Written by: Alexandra Dunn, Regional Administrator | October 15, 2018
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New England Region
REPOSTED on on October 26, 2018

This is an exciting time to be working to improve water quality on Cape Cod. The strong partnership between local communities, the Cape Cod Commission, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is showing real progress, and there is substantial momentum across the board in our efforts to address nitrogen pollution affecting Cape Cod water quality.

There are many recent examples of excellent work, beginning with the Pleasant Bay Alliance – formed by the Towns of Orleans, Chatham, Harwich and Brewster – working together on a coordinated resource management plan for Pleasant Bay and its watershed. The work by the Pleasant Bay Alliance resulted in the first-of-its-kind watershed permit under MassDEP’s pilot program. Seeing the four towns commit to a 20-year plan to reduce nitrogen, search for the best practices to manage it, and implement innovative and effective treatment methods, is truly inspirational and is a model for how other communities can tackle local environmental challenges. The path chosen by these communities to address pollution is generating innovative approaches, and avoiding litigation and delay in dealing with a critical problem.

Recently, EPA and MassDEP were pleased to share in the announcement of nearly $1.9 million in grants to five Cape Cod-focused organizations and their partners that are working to improve water quality for healthy coastal ecosystems in Cape Cod, including waters flowing into Buzzards Bay. These grants are funded under a collaboration between EPA and Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) through the 2018 Southeast New England Program (SNEP). Since inception in 2014, SNEP has been building partnerships to tackle the region’s most pressing environmental issues, such as nutrient pollution and coastal habitat loss.

The grant recipients include the Cape Cod Commission, Association to Preserve Cape Cod, Pleasant Bay Alliance, Falmouth Rod & Gun Club, and Buzzards Bay Coalition, each of which is leading an innovative, high-impact project of regional importance. The $1.9 million in federal funds will be matched by an additional $1 million in state and local dollars. Since SNEP’s inception in 2012, EPA has provided more than $6.2 million in grants and technical assistance to protect and restore Cape Cod waters. As of 2018, the program has directed more than $21 million across the southeast coastal region, including Narragansett Bay, Buzzards Bay, the Islands and Cape Cod.

We were also heartened last month when a Who’s Who list of state leaders and dignitaries attended the OneCape Summit in Harwich. Led by Governor Charlie Baker, this meeting featured notable speakers all noting the importance of protecting the Cape’s environment, and thinking outside the box of local political boundaries to get the work done. It is not lost on us that, just as nitrogen, stormwater, and drinking water don’t adhere to local municipal boundaries, so too do the issues facing Cape Cod require working together across town boundaries, working with and learning from each other in the process.

The great news is that Cape Cod communities and citizens get this fact, and are taking concrete steps to protect the local environment, and in doing so, are protecting one of New England’s most special places for their children and grandchildren.