The Division works with many partners across a variety of aquatic systems – from freshwater to saltwater – to restore the ecological integrity of degraded habitats for the benefit of people, fish, and wildlife. Physical restoration techniques such as culvert replacement, stream naturalization, and fill and dam removal, are designed and implemented to maximize restoration benefits for aquatic habitat while minimizing negative impacts to infrastructure, cultural resources, and the built environment.
Emphasis is placed on projects that are self-sustaining and provide long-term benefits that assist in “the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed,” as defined in the Society of Ecological Restoration.
DER also considers sustainable stream flow as integral to watershed health. Many streams, especially in eastern Massachusetts are subject to excessive water withdrawals and degradation from incompatible development and other manipulations of the natural hydrologic regime. Restoring natural stream flow through dam management, water conservation and infrastructure planning are techniques that can be used to improve aquatic ecosystem functions.
The Division, in partnership with public, private and non-governmental organizations, has completed over 60 restoration projects, restoring hundreds of acres of estuarine wetlands and miles of rivers and freshwater habitats. DER is helping partners develop over 75 active projects from Pittsfield to Provincetown that are currently leveraging over 12 million dollars in non-state funding.
An example of an active project that addresses ecosystem restoration comprehensively is the Eel River Headwaters Restoration in Plymouth. There, former cranberry bogs are being restored to Atlantic white cedar swamp complete with a naturally flowing, barrier-free, coldwater river with riparian floodplain wetlands. This complex project is designed to transform a severely degraded watershed landscape into a healthy, resilient, and fully functioning freshwater ecosystem. The Eel River project approach and partnerships exemplify the integrated, holistic goals of the Division of Ecological Restoration.