Save The Bay and partners to develop water quality improvement plan for Hundred Acre Cove
Recreational activity in Hundred Acre Cove, Barrington, Rhode Island has increased in recent years—despite chronic water pollution issues.
BARRINGTON, R.I. – Hundred Acre Cove, bordered by Barrington and East Providence, Rhode Island and Seekonk, Massachusetts, has been closed to shellfishing since the 1990s due to bacterial pollution, but Save The Bay and partners are working to reverse this long-standing trend. With the support of a Southeast New England Program Watershed Grant and through partnerships with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, the City of East Providence, the Town of Barrington and the Town of Seekonk, Save The Bay is leading the development of a comprehensive water quality restoration plan for Hundred Acre Cove. The project—announced in Pawtucket on Sept. 17, 2018, with representatives from Restore America’s Estuaries and the Environmental Protection Agency, and the full Rhode Island congressional delegation—was presented at the 9th National Summit on Coastal and Estuarine Restoration and Management in California last month.
“We’ve seen significant improvements in the overall water quality of Narragansett Bay, particularly over the past two decades,” said Kate McPherson, Narragansett Bay Riverkeeper at Save The Bay. “But just as important are the streams, rivers and coves that feed the Bay and serve as valuable spawning grounds and habitat for plants and animals, as well as recreational and commercial opportunities that draw people to the area.”
“Despite prior efforts, little has been done to remedy the pollution that threatens public health and damages the ecology of this beautiful inlet,” said Save The Bay Executive Director, Jonathan Stone. “Our goal is to drive concrete actions that make a tangible difference in the cleanup of Hundred Acre Cove as mandated by the Clean Water Act.”
Over the next three years, Save The Bay and its bi-state partners will review preexisting data, conduct an existing conditions assessment, and work with project partners to develop and implement a plan for future actions. The comprehensive plan will include a prioritized set of restoration, communication, policy and regulatory actions that, when taken together, should improve the water quality in Hundred Acre Cove.
“Pollution does not respect state lines, and we must work together to confront the environmental challenges we face across Southeast New England,” said Sen. Jack Reed in Restore America’s Estuaries’ September grant announcement. “Maintaining healthy watersheds and coastal ecosystems has direct impacts on the economies of our coastal communities and our quality of life. “
“The purpose of the Southeast New England Program is to support regional solutions to environmental problems,” said Thomas Ardito, Director of the Southeast New England Watershed Grants Program. “With this project, Save The Bay is reaching across state lines and working with several municipalities, building a coalition to complete this important project while establishing a foundation for future actions to restore clean water to Narragansett Bay.”
Since 1990, Barrington’s population has grown along the eastern side of Hundred Acre Cove. Cor-relatively, the cove has also seen an increase in recreational use, from rowing to recreational fishing. Unfortunately, users of the cove are often unaware of its chronic water pollution problems. While numerous federal, state and local entities have monitored Hundred Acre Cove, gathered information on purported pollution sources and identified potential corrective actions, actions to date have not led to meaningful improvement.
Studies and reports provide important data and recommendations, but follow-on solutions and implementation can be difficult for many reasons. “For Hundred Acre Cove, there are many identified and unidentified sources of pollution spread between two states and three municipalities. Staff capacity and funding are always issues,” said Mike Jarbeau, Narragansett Baykeeper at Save The Bay. “This project will allow Save The Bay staff to take a holistic look at the watershed and provide communities with actionable, prioritized solutions and assist with implementation.”
Hundred Acre Cove is a one-square-mile water body located within the bi-state Barrington River-Warren River sub-watershed and is a critical estuarine habitat for fish, shellfish, crustaceans, birds and other animals. The Barrington River is fed by the Runnins River, which marks the Rhode Island-Massachusetts state line as it meanders north along the Wampanoag Trail, behind the highly-developed U.S. Route 6 commercial district, and under Interstate 195 at U.S. Route 44. The Runnins River has historically held some of the highest bacteria levels in the watershed and is of particular interest in the project.
A Comprehensive Plan to Restore Water Quality in Hundred Acre Cove is supported by the Southeast New England Program (SNEP) Watershed Grants. SNEP Watershed Grants are funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through a collaboration with Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE). For more on SNEP Watershed Grants, see www.snepgrants.org.