Woman with microphone standing in the audience

“Partnerships sound really easy, but are a lot of work.”

These words from Martin Suuberg, the Commissioner of Massachusetts’s Department of Environmental Protection, opened a workshop on the state of the Blackstone River watershed, which runs from Worcester to Narragansett Bay.

Nonetheless, the 70 scientists, policymakers, academics, and advocates at the April 29 event made it look trouble-free, flowing freely from stories of past successes to future challenges.

The workshop was the third of three organized by the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program against the backdrop of its comprehensive State of Narragansett Bay and Its Watershed report, released a year and a half ago.

Fittingly, participants turned the gathering at the new Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center at Worcester into another collaboration, passing the microphone from hand to hand at the front and the back of the room.

In addition to audience participation, the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program hosted two panels and opening remarks by Suuberg, and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit.

Other keynote speakers were Mel Coté, the chief of the Surface Water Branch for EPA New England, and Worcester City Councilor Morris Bergman.

Susan Sullivan and student
Brendan McCarron, a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island, shares a moment with NEIWPCC Executive Director Susan Sullivan during a break at the Blackstone workshop on April 29.

The Narragansett Bay Estuary Program’s new program director, Mike Gerel, closed the day by summing up the day’s conversations and conclusions. Two common themes: “celebrate progress” and “speak up to decision makers”

Participants, he said, also noted a “need to pursue more targeted education to key audiences” and that “more aquatic fish and macroinvertebrate data is needed.”

Gerel’s complete summation is included on the event’s web page under “workshop outcomes.”