Priorities and Goals of the Southeast New England Program
The Southeast New England Program (originally called the Southeast New England Coastal Watershed Restoration Program) is a collaboration of federal, state, and non-governmental organizations with the goal to develop a coordinated strategy to promote innovative and sustainable approaches to protect and restore the region's coastal watershed ecosystems. Under the theme of "think regionally, act locally," a working group of stakeholders has been engaged with U.S. EPA in defining a restoration framework and developing a shared vision and priorities. The common goal of the program is to protect and restore the ecological health of southeast New England's estuaries and watersheds, and that these ecosystems be resilient and self-sustaining, with healthy diverse habitats supporting fish, shellfish, and other aquatic and coastal species. The following guidance was provided by the United States Congress:
Southern New England Estuaries. The conferees recommend that the Agency convene and lead a comprehensive regional policy coordination and outreach effort to protect, enhance, and restore the coastal watersheds of southern New England. No entity or consortium exists to meet these challenges, and there is an urgent and immediate need for such an effort. For example, in Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay, there are documented extensive areas of pollution severely degrading fish and wildlife habitat and water quality; problems that are compounded by the effects of warmer water temperatures and milder winters. The conferees recommend that EPA establish goals for the regional effort, emphasizing water quality and habitat restoration as well as the development and implementation of innovative technologies to meet these challenges and create jobs. The effort should provide for streamlined interagency communication, and involve an inclusive stakeholder process. Specifically, EPA should collaborate with State agencies as well as other Federal partners such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Small Business Administration. The Agency should also include stakeholders from local governments and agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions. The conferees also recommend that the Agency, through this regional effort, facilitate the development of strategies to restore and protect the southern New England Estuaries.
The Program's desired objectives are to protect and improve water quality, to restore impaired natural processes, and to restore critical habitat. Traditionally, agencies and non-governmental organizations have addressed these problems separately, but the Southeast New England Program will take advantage of the opportunity to connect these ecological objectives by focusing on projects that increase the linkages between different types of restoration activities. The Program will adopt a holistic, systems-based approach to restoration by incorporating a variety of integrated management approaches that address the region's broad set of stressors and disturbances. These strategies include increasing regional collaboration and communication, integrating new technologies into restoration projects, and applying the latest scientific developments.