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News Releases from Region 01

Four New England Communities Get EPA Assistance to Meet Environmental Goals and Foster Economic Development

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EPA Public Affairs

BOSTON - Two Massachusetts communities as well as a community in Connecticut and one in Rhode Island will receive technical assistance from the US Environmental Protection Agency to pursue development strategies that advance clean air, clean water, economic development and other local goals. EPA chose the communities of Wareham and Lenox, Mass; Central Falls, R.I.; and Hartford, Conn. from among 76 applicants nationwide to the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program.

In 2017, EPA staff and national experts will conduct two-day workshops in these communities to help them address development-related challenges.

"This program will help local leaders guide their communities towards a healthier, more vibrant future," according to Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "Leaders and citizens will learn that their communities don't have to choose between protecting the environment and strengthening the economy."

Lenox, Mass. will receive a workshop on encouraging equitable development, which helps communities develop in ways that do not disproportionately affect certain populations or residents.

"This EPA program will be a great opportunity to explore how we look at and guide development in the community to truly benefit all stakeholders," said Gwen Miller, Land Use Director and Town Planner. For instance, the workshop can explore "how we can retain and provide housing for community support staff and hospitality industry staff - and how we can retain and provide high quality job opportunities and high quality economic opportunities for incoming and legacy residents in ways that are sensitive to our context and environment, while also providing excellent services and maintaining or replacing infrastructure to meet current and future needs."

Wareham, Mass. will receive a workshop on flood resilience, meant to help communities prepare for climate change-related flooding and becoming more disaster prepared by assessing local plans, policies, and development regulations to identify approaches for becoming more resilient to future flooding.

"Knowing how much a coastal storm would wreak havoc in the lives of our citizens and local business people, we eagerly look forward to this program showing the town a better way of planning for and responding to flooding along our historic New England coastline," said Town Administrator Derek Sullivan.

"This will dovetail perfectly into preparation of our comprehensive Hazard Mitigation Plan," added Ken Buckland, Director of Planning and Community Development.

Both Central Falls, R.I. and Hartford, Conn. will benefit from "Green and Complete Streets" workshops, meant to help communities develop strategies for greening their streets based on national models and case studies of places where green infrastructure was used to manage stormwater while making the street more aesthetically appealing and safer for all.

"As the state's only Metropolitan Planning Organization, the RI Statewide Division of Planning is committed to promoting multi-modal transportation investments and incorporating the principles of sustainability into transportation decision making," said Parag Agrawal, Associate Director of Rhode Island's Division of Planning. "We look forward to working with our partners from the City of Central Falls and EPA to promote the concept of complete and green streets in the region."

"I am excited that Hartford was chosen as a site for the EPA Green and Complete Streets workshop," said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. "This workshop will help us identify new ways to reduce stormwater runoff, reduce the risk of flooding, and make Hartford greener and more walkable."

"MDC has long advocated for green infrastructure in Hartford," said Scott Jellison, CEO of the Metropolitan District Commission, which manages water and sewer infrastructure in the greater Hartford region. "We look forward to working with the City of Hartford to make the EPA workshop a catalyst for more environmentally-friendly infrastructure development."

Other communities chosen nationally by EPA included: Skykomish, Wash; Willamina, Ore; Bishop, Calif; Apache Junction, Ariz; Questa and Raton, NM; Pueblo, Colo.; Pine Ridge, SD; Randolph, Neb.; Brownsville, Texas; Logansport and Acadia Parish, La.; Winona, Minn.; Detroit, Mich.; Fairview Park, Ohio; Manatee County and Miami, Fla.; Myrtle Beach, SC; Pocomoke City and Baltimore, Md., and Kingston, NY.

EPA is offering tools to help in five areas this year: in addition to the Green and Complete Streets, Equitable Development, and Flood Resilience workshops, there are workshops on Planning for Infill Development and on Sustainable Strategies for Small Cities and Rural Areas.

Since 2011, the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program has provided assistance to 130 communities in 41 states. As a result of this assistance, community groups, local governments, and tribal governments across the nation have increased their capacity to grow and develop in ways that protect the environment, improve public health, create jobs and economic opportunity, build climate resiliency, and improve overall quality of life.

More information on EPA's Building Blocks program (www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/building-blocks-sustainable-communities)