Efforts that will plant forest buffers along streams, remove barriers to fish migration, engage underserved communities and accelerate nutrient reduction efforts in the Chesapeake Bay region were among 49 projects that received more than $10 million in grants on Tuesday.
The projects were part of this year’s Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants Program, an initiative funded largely by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help nonprofits, local governments and others working at the local level to implement projects that improve habitat and reduce pollution.
This year’s awards will be matched with $12 million from grant recipients, bringing the total value of the work to more than $22 million. Altogether, the efforts will help place conservation practices on more than 45,000 acres and restore more than 45 miles of streamside forest habitat.
“It is a priority for EPA to support local actions that move us closer to our restoration goals,” said Diana Esher, acting administrator for the EPA’s mid-Atlantic region. “We applaud the grantees for their commitment to cleaner water and healthier watersheds.”
Funded projects span the watershed from promoting living shorelines on Monroe Bay in Virginia to replacing undersized culverts in New York to aid brook trout movement. They also will improve brook trout habitat in West Virginia, plant native grass stream buffers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and restore oysters in Maryland’s St. Mary’s River.
Other projects will create a native tree nursery in a Baltimore neighborhood and restore floodplains on the Little Conestoga Creek in Pennsylvania.
The program is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a nonprofit grantmaking organization created by Congress.
“By focusing our resources on projects that provide multiple benefits, NFWF and its partners are demonstrating how watershed restoration projects strengthen the resilience of both communities and wildlife habitats, and how targeted investments can achieve multiple conservation goals,” said Jeff Trandahl, the foundation’s executive director.
The grants also support the Bay Program’s increased emphasis on promoting diversity and environmental justice. Funded projects would support restoration efforts in three historically underrepresented communities on the Choptank River, training owners and employees of small and minority-owned landscape contracting companies to promote green infrastructure projects, and support for a program that promotes watershed restoration projects with Spanish-speaking residents.
Since 1999, the Small Watershed Grants program, which was envisioned by former Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, has provided more than $83 million to 985 projects in the watershed.