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EPA and DEM Sign Two-Year Agreement on Environmental Goals; EPA Also Announces $60,000 in grants for Smart Growth in Rhode Island

Release Date: 09/12/2001
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, Press Office, (617-918-1008) Gail Mastrati, DEM, (401-222-4700 ext. 2402) Stephanie Powell, DEM, (401-222-4700 ext. 4418)

BOSTON - Rhode Island's efforts to preserve open space and revitalize its urban centers were given a major boost today when state and federal officials announced a partnership agreement worth nearly $6 million between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the R.I. Department of Environmental Management.

At a press conference today at the State House, Regional Administrator Robert Varney of EPA-New England and DEM Director Jan Reitsma announced the Performance Partnership Agreement (PPA) between EPA and DEM that awards the state about $5.7 million to implement clear environmental goals over the next two years. EPA officials also announced the infusion of $60,000 in federal funds for smart growth efforts in the state. Governor Lincoln Almond was on hand for the press conference.

In addition to its focus on smart growth, the partnership agreement between EPA and Rhode Island focuses on clean air, protecting the state's water resources and restoring ecosystems. Specific goals in the PPA include:

    • Conduct 80 inspections of exterior lead paint removal projects by June 2003.
    • Enter into 18 settlement agreements for Brownfield sites and clean 60 acres of contaminated land by July 2003.
    • Help Rhode Island develop a Greenhouse Gas Action Plan, including specific reduction goals, by Dec. 2002.
    • Restore anadromous fish to the Kickemuit, Blackstone and 10 Mile Rivers.
    • Restore 500 acres of habitat in Boyd's Marsh, Allen's Cover, Potter's Cove and Lonsdale Marsh on the Blackstone River.
"Today we are launching an agreement that will lead to tangible improvements in Rhode Island's environment," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA New England. "And the improvements will come in areas Rhode Islanders are most concerned about – problems such as childhood lead poisoning, cleaning up Brownfield sites, preserving open space and protecting valuable water resources."

"This agreement provides a framework for cooperation between the EPA and DEM that will enable us to more efficiently use our resources, as we continue to work with private groups and municipalities to protect our quality of life and natural heritage," Governor Almond added.

"This agreement brings a progressive approach to environmental protection and management by integrating state and federal programs into a coordinated environmental strategy," Reitsma said, noting this is the fifth partnership agreement reached between the two agencies. "Both DEM and EPA have committed their resources toward meeting specific environmental priorities and have set clear performance targets to measure our progress so we can be held accountable for reaching these goals."

The EPA grant awards announced by Almond and Varney support the agreement's emphasis on protecting rural areas and revitalizing abandoned urban properties. Rhode Island, which ranks fifth in population among the six New England states, ranks second in the amount of smart growth funding received from EPA, totaling $422,000 over the past three years.

DEM will receive $40,000 from EPA to develop an urban design manual that will help state and local officials, developers, planners and the public develop properties in a way that protects the environment while bringing city buildings, brownfields, and urban areas back to life. The Urban Environmental Design Manual will promote the reuse of existing buildings and infrastructure to lessen the pressures on open space in undeveloped parts of the state. Reitsma pointed out that the manual will be available on the internet and also will be incorproated into the curriculum of the Planning Institute , which is being developed under the auspices of the Governor's Growth Planning Council.

Another $20,000 is being awarded to a non-profit group, Grow Smart Rhode Island, which will use the money to research the location and nature of the state's hundreds of brownfield sites and to identify funds and other incentives that could help bring these sites back into productive use. One of the incentives the group will research is an environmental insurance program, which could make it easier to redevelop brownfields by protecting developers against cost overruns and lost collateral during the clean-up process. Grow Smart will be working on this project with DEM and the RI Economic Development Corporation.

"Redeveloping brownfields is a very efficient and practical way to boost our economy, strengthen our urban and town centers and reduce development pressures in our rural areas," said Scott Wolf, executive director of Grow Smart Rhode Island. "Achieving this vision requires new state financial incentives, better site monitoring and regulatory streamlining."

Grow Smart Rhode Island, a coalition of organizations, is creating the inventory of brownfields and incentives for clean-up in order to raise awareness on the key role of cleaning up brownfields in bringing cities a new economic vitality and preserving open space. Through their work with DEM and RI-EDC, and by educating the public, the organization hopes to encourage more funding and attention for brownfields projects in Rhode Island.

At today's press conference, Governor Almond unveiled a colorful, annotated map of the Woonasquatucket River that is meant to highlight the historic, natural, and recreational resources of this 18-mile river.

"The Woonasquatucket River is not only the centerpiece of the Providence renaissance," Varney said. "It is also part of a 51-square-mile watershed filled with natural resources and beauty. This map, printed by EPA, will go a long way towards helping residents and visitors to Rhode Island appreciate and take advantage of this important environmental resource."

The map grew out of the efforts of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, which was formed as part of the river's designation in 1998 as one of 14 American Heritage Rivers.

Almond also unveiled the newly published South County Design Manual, which was developed by DEM as part of the South County Technical Planning Assistance Project with $100,000 in EPA funds. The design manual lays out design scenarios for eight locations in South County and shows the application of creative land use techniques. The two-year project was a collaborative effort between south county communities, planning board members and local residents, and also includes publications on model land use ordinances, farming and forestry protection strategies, the transfer of development rights,, and a rapid site assessment guide. The materials are available online at Click icon for EPA disclaimer.

More information from EPA is available at