RAE Grantees and Program Managers Participate in SNEP Forum

On June 13, EPA Region 1 hosted an all-day forum conference for the Southeast New England Program (SNEP). The purpose of the SNEP Forum, held at Bristol County Community College in Fall River, MA, was to bring together EPA staff, SNEP partners, grantees and stakeholders to share experiences and discuss the future of the program.

Since it was initially funded by Congress in 2014, SNEP has allocated more than $57 million to restore clean water, healthy ecosystems and sustainable communities to Southeast New England, from Cape Cod to Westerly, RI, including the watersheds of Narragansett and Buzzards Bay as far north as Worcester, MA, and offshore islands such as Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

More than 100 people participated in the forum, which began with a welcome from EPA Regional Administration David Cash, followed by a keynote address by Dr. Chris Obrupta of Rutgers University. Representatives of each of the major elements of the SNEP program then provided updates, including EPA staff, Tom Ardito, RAE’s SNEP Watershed Implementation Grants (SWIG) Director, and representatives of the SNEP Network and SNEP subcommittees.

EPA also announced a new environmental justice grants program made possible by passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which also provided funding for two other current SNEP solicitations – one for large stormwater and green infrastructure grants, and another for environmental research.

Following the plenary session, participants spent the rest of the day in breakout groups to discuss specific aspects of the SNEP program and best practices in environmental restoration. Tom Ardito facilitated a session on Keeping Track of Funding Opportunities, aimed at giving participants abetter understanding of grants and other funding for environmental restoration in Southeast New England – including not just SNEP, but other federal, state and private sources as well.

Later in the day he managed a discussion on “Community-led Project Design, Learning and Engagement” which highlighted the work of six SWIG grantees, all of whom successfully developed collaborative restoration projects by working closely with communities. Both sessions were well attended with lively discussion.

A highlight of the Forum was the poster session, which was open throughout the day in a central space of the conference hall. About 20 SWIG grantees displayed posters of their SNEP-funded projects and staffed them during coffee breaks, giving conference participants the opportunity to learn more about the projects and, equally important, allowing grantees to meet and speak with one another. Sara Smith, RAE’s Grant Administrator, attended the meeting, as well, and welcomed the opportunity to meet many of our grantees. This was the first major in-person SNEP meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic and many participants expressed gratitude at being able to get together in person.

RAE staff, and our SNEP partners, are already looking forward to the next SNEP Forum. Here are a few more photos from the event!