Eel River Headwaters Restoration Project

Plymouth, MA

Restored wetland hydrology on former cranberry farm
Restored wetland hydrology on former cranberry farm

Winner of the 2011 Coastal America Partnership Award, the Eel River Headwaters Project used a process-based approach to holistically transform approximately 60-acres of former commercial cranberry farm into self-sustaining freshwater wetlands.   A variety of partners supported the Town of Plymouths multi-year effort to permanently protect the land, design and implement restoration activities, and provide public access and recreational opportunities.  Through a coordinated series of restoration actions, the project addressed a myriad of stressors limiting ecological potential, including barriers to fish and wildlife passage, altered hydrology and degraded wetland soils (buried under a century of farm-applied sand), and simplified channel and floodplain structure.  Specific actions included:  Removal of the Sawmill Pond Dam (a complete barrier to upstream fish migration); replacement of two undersized culverts and removal of a third; removal of seven water control structures (essentially small dams); re-construction of 1.7 miles of stream channel and floodplain; installation of 1,000+ pieces of large wood, removal of 48,000 cubic yards of fill, and installation of approximately 20,000 plants, including 17,000+ Atlantic white cedar trees.  Monitoring, evaluation, and adaptive management are in progress.  This ‘first-of-its-kind’ restoration of a former cranberry farm provides guidance and lessons for 100s of acres of other wetland restoration projects now in progress in southeastern Massachusetts. Read a fact sheet from the 2009 groundbreaking ceremony pdf format of    Eel River Factsheet

Sawmill Pond Dam prior to removal (2005)
Sawmill Pond Dam prior to removal (2005)
Eel River post-removal of the Sawmill Pond Dam (2011)
Eel River post-removal of the Sawmill Pond Dam (2011)