On August 21, 2020, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced $798,500 in state grant funds for four ecological restoration projects in the towns of Plymouth, Mattapoisett, Wellfleet, Truro, and Northampton/Easthampton. The four projects help local partners remove aging dams, restore historic wetlands, and improve floodplain habitat and storage.
“By restoring the natural hydrology of our wetlands and floodplains, these projects bolster the Commonwealth’s resilience to climate change and its associated storms and flooding,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “These grants will improve infrastructure and our environment, providing long-term benefits to our environment and people of Massachusetts.”
The river and wetland restoration grants are administered by the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) Division of Ecological Restoration (DER).
“Our Department nurtures strong partnerships to accomplish important ecological restoration goals, as exemplified by these projects,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Ronald Amidon. “Working with municipalities, non-governmental organizations, and other groups, each participant offers their unique contribution that ultimately leads to success.”
DER brings together federal, state, and local agencies and organizations to plan, fund, and implement projects that restore rivers and wetlands while also helping communities adapt to climate change.
“River and wetland restoration projects are an important part of our Administration’s efforts to protect residents, businesses and natural resources from the impacts of climate change,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration is proud to collaborate with our federal and local partners on these projects that support local jobs, improve public safety, and increase access to outdoor recreation opportunities.”
These projects are also designated as DER Priority Projects, making the projects eligible for technical services, including data collection, engineering, design work, permitting, project management and grants. Once completed, the projects will provide significant social, environmental, and economic benefits to the Commonwealth and local communities. Currently, 56 ecological restoration projects throughout the state are designated as Priority Projects.
“By partnering with the federal government, municipalities, conservation organizations, and the private sector, our administration can make more effective investments in restoring and protecting critical environmental resources,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “These projects will enhance fish and wildlife habitat while boosting economic activity in Massachusetts communities.”
The funded projects include:
Foothills Preserve/West Beaver Dam Brook Restoration Project (Award: $200,000)
Leveraging prior funding secured from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant (NCWCG) Program and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), this award involves comprehensive wetland restoration across 42 acres of retired cranberry farmland owned by the Town of Plymouth and 5 acres of downstream degraded floodplain owned by Mass Audubon. This project will work to restore free flowing conditions along 1.27 miles of stream channel and reconnect this sub-watershed to the ocean by removing a total of six small dams. When complete, the site will be transformed into a mosaic of natural habitat types within protected public open space.
Mattapoisett Bogs Restoration Project (Award: $50,000)
Working with staff from the Buzzards Bay Coalition (BBC) and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), DER is working on wetland and stream restoration design and engineering as part of needed restoration actions for rejuvenating historical wetlands in the approximately 57 acres of retired cranberry bogs within the Mattapoisett River Reserve (MRR). The MRR is a 220-acre network of preserved lands in the Mattapoisett River Valley, owned by the BBC. Funding from this award will help support final design and permitting services to prepare the project for implementation and augments a prior award from DER, as well as funding secured by BBC from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET) for engineering design, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) for future trails improvements, and the NRCS for future project implementation.
Herring River Estuary Restoration Project (Award: $500,000)
The Herring River Estuary Restoration Project is the largest coastal river and wetland restoration ever undertaken in Massachusetts and the northeastern United States. Numerous local, state, federal, NGO, and academic partners have been working to develop this important and complex project over the past two decades. The project goal is to restore tidal flow to approximately 6 miles of waterways and up to 1,000 acres of degraded salt marsh and estuarine habitats. The project will also improve Wellfleet Harbor water quality, enhance migratory fish access to hundreds of acres of spawning ponds, restore a significant area of shellfish habitat, and increase coastal resilience to the effects of climate change and sea level rise. This grant is anticipated to leverage an estimated $1,000,000 in federal funding from the NOAA Restoration Center, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to support ongoing design, permitting, monitoring, and project coordination and management costs.
Arcadia/Manhan Meadows Floodplain Forest Restoration Project (Award: $48,500)
In partnership with Mass Audubon, DER is working to restore approximately 15 acres of former agricultural fields to a high-terrace floodplain forest community within Mass Audubon’s Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. This effort is especially important due to the substantial decrease in floodplain forests along the Connecticut River since European settlement of the area, with little room for restoration of the acres that remain due to development, agricultural easements, or intact wetland communities. Funding from this grant will support implementation of Phase 1 of the restoration design.
Local leaders were unanimous in their praise for the restorative funding:
“The Herring River Estuary Restoration Project is climate resiliency policy in action. The threat of disruption due to the climate emergency is very real and our response needs to include tangible investment that takes substantive action to buttress the impact of rising sea level and worsening storms,” said State Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “I’m grateful to the Department of Ecological Restoration for its willingness to mobilize real dollars and work with local partners to protect our coasts and make this project a reality.”
“The Plymouth and Barnstable district is home to some of the most beautiful and diverse natural habitats in the Commonwealth,” said State Senator Susan Moran (D-Falmouth). “I am grateful for the partnership of the Baker-Polito administration with our communities to restore and preserve these habitats. That partnership continues with this grant that will restore retired cranberry bogs in Plymouth and create acres of pristine public space for residents and visitors to enjoy.”
“I am grateful to the Baker-Polito Administration and Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) for this additional funding to assist the Town of Plymouth’s Department of Marine and Environmental Affairs in their ongoing and extraordinary efforts to restore the Town’s Foothills Preserve and Mass Audubon’s Tidmarsh Sanctuary,” said State Representative Mathew Muratore (R-Plymouth). “This is one more example of the long-standing working partnership with the Town of Plymouth and DER to restore natural habitat and preserve public open space in our community.”
“This grant represents the Commonwealth’s continued commitment to this important project. The Herring River Restoration Project is the single most important environmental project on the Outer Cape and possibly in the Commonwealth,” said State Representative Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown). “These funds will allow the work to continue so that this choked estuary can be restored and approximately 6 miles of waterway will once again flow freely. I want to thank the Baker-Polito Administration for their ongoing support of this project.”
Photo of Manhan Meadow is courtesy of Massachusetts Audubon.