The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management's Wetlands Restoration Program (WRP) together with numerous partners has completed the Draft Great Marsh Coastal Wetlands Restoration Plan (Draft Plan) as a tool to help communities in the Great Marsh region identify and restore degraded and former coastal wetland habitats. The Draft Plan presents maps and descriptions of 121 potential and completed salt marsh restoration sites in the Great Marsh. Served from the internet, the Plan will be updated and expanded to provide timely information on site status and progress, and to incorporate new restoration opportunities as they emerge. In the future, as additional resources become available, WRP may incorporate information on additional habitat restoration types, such as eelgrass, coastal buffers, and anadromous fish runs.
The goals of the Draft Plan are:
- To publish preliminary information for potential and completed tidal wetland restoration sites in the Great Marsh,
- To solicit input from the public, including local town officials and committees, watershed and environmental groups, property owners, and other potential restoration partners and funders, and
- To facilitate identification of restoration projects that local collaborators are interested in pursuing.
The Draft Plan provides initial baseline information about potential restoration sites to be used in future dialogue, planning, and project development. Ultimately, the Plan is intended to help municipalities, state and federal agencies, and other organizations and individuals to identify, prioritize, and initiate wetland restoration projects that will improve the health of Great Marsh coastal aquatic habitats.
The Draft Plan presents information for 107 potential wetland restoration sites. WRP, with input from local communities and other partners, has determined that each of these sites likely contains degraded wetlands that, if restored, could produce significant environmental benefits. Information available for each site includes: site status and restoration priority, type of wetland alteration(s), potential acreage to be restored, site descriptions, site maps, and site photographs. For 24 of these sites, more detailed assessment information is available in the form of a Rapid Technical Assessment Report. The Plan also includes descriptions, maps, and photographs of 14 completed wetland restoration projects in the study area.
The Final Plan will be published in spring/summer 2007 and will incorporate the feedback and comments received from input on the Draft Plan and request for comments. The Final Plan will contain a guidance section that suggests next steps for advancing priority sites and helps interested parties understand what it takes to restore a damaged or destroyed wetland back to health.
For information on the importance of coastal wetlands and pursuing restoration opportunities, see the Background section.
The Great Marsh region stretches along the upper north shore of Massachusetts and into southern New Hampshire . For the purposes of this Plan, the study area is confined to the Massachusetts portion of the Great Marsh - the coastal area from Gloucester in the south to Salisbury in the north. The study area boundary delineation was guided by tidal and former tidal wetland areas. Tidal wetland boundaries were estimated for this region through analysis of current and historical aerial photographs and wetland delineations. The study area is comprised of portions of the following Massachusetts communities: Salisbury , Newburyport , Newbury, Rowley, Ipswich, Essex, Gloucester and Rockport. Click the map image above to visit the Plan's Interactive Map.
The Plan is presented as an online, interactive document which includes background information on the Plan and the methods used to develop the information on the sites presented as restoration opportunities. Site-specific information is available in a variety of formats, including descriptive information provided for each site on individual site web pages. Each site webpage provides access to maps and photos of the site, as well as additional information (when applicable) in the form of a Rapid Technical Assessment Report and links to related sites. Explore the Sites Table (sortable by several criteria) and Interactive Map of the study area to access information on particular sites identified in the Plan. The Great Marsh communities and others interested in wetlands restoration are encouraged to review all the sites in this Plan and to make their own determinations about restoration priorities. Comments on the overall Plan and the individual sites are welcome and encouraged by clicking the Contact Us link at the bottom of all pages. For help with navigating the Plan, please visit Navigation Help.
The methodology used to identify potential restoration sites combined information from existing site inventories, GIS analysis, local community input, and extensive field work. The analysis focused on sites that appear to have practical, physical restoration opportunities. WRP staff met with town officials, regional organizations, and other restoration partners to review identified sites and gather additional information on restoration potential. During the summer of 2005, WRP hired a consultant to perform rapid technical site assessments at 24 of the most promising sites. The assessments have been completed and provide detailed site data, including tidal range surveys, impact characterizations, and conceptual restoration options with cost estimates. All potential restoration sites were given a priority ranking of low, medium, or high based on a review of GIS and site visit information. Priority rankings are subjective determinations made using the best professional judgment of WRP staff. The primary criteria for this determination are size, ownership, potential environmental benefits, and feasibility. In general, the factors considered in the priority determination are included in the text of the site description. The rankings are not definitive; rather, they are intended as a guide to help communities and other partners prioritize potential projects. See the Methodology page for more information.
The Plan includes information on 108 potential restoration sites and 13 completed restoration projects in the Great Marsh Region. Rapid technical site assessments are available for 24 of the potential restoration sites. For the potential sites-- 6 sites are considered in development; 11 are high priority sites;46 are medium priority sites; and 51 are low priority sites. It is important to note that regardless of priority ranking, sites are included in this Plan because they likely have some level of restoration potential. The priority rankings are provided to help people focus restoration efforts and resources on sites that WRP believes have the greatest ecological and practical potential. Additional information gathered through future technical assessment work and input from restoration partners may change the priority rankings, which will be updated as needed in the Restoration Plan.
After incorporating input from the public, the final restoration plan will be completed and posted on the web. WRP will work with the Great Marsh communities and restoration partners to advance promising sites toward restoration.