Massachusetts has more than 10,000 miles of river.  From steep headwaters brooks to large winding rivers like the Connecticut, each provides habitat to countless fish, insects, and terrestrial animals.  River corridors also provide flood storage, recreation, drinking water, and many other valuable services.  Unfortunately, rivers in Massachusetts suffer from over-allocation of water, polluted runoff during rain, and habitat fragmentation. And in many cities and towns, rivers are separated from residents and businesses by concrete walls, fences, and buildings.

DER’s on-the-ground work focuses on revitalizing urban rivers and undoing the effects of more than 3000 dams and 40,000 culverts.  Dams block fish and wildlife, degrade water quality, and stop the flow of water, sediment, and organic material.  Undersized and inappropriately place culverts block fish and wildlife.  Both cause public safety risks as they degrade and eventually fail catastrophically.  DER works with dam owners to remove unwanted dams and with cities, towns, and the state to replace undersized culverts.  DER also works with communities to improve water quality and stream habitat in urban settings.

DER serves as a catalyst for river restoration and revitalization projects.  DER identifies new projects, organizes project teams, provides technical assistance and training, secures project funding, and helps to manage and coordinate restoration activities from start to finish.

DER works on 20 – 30 dam removal and three to five culvert projects at any one time.  While DER focuses its resources on Priority Projects identified through a competitive process, staff are available to talk and share resources with any interested project proponents.  Staff are also available, as time allows, to make presentations on river restoration and urban river revitalization to community groups, municipal commissions, dam owners, and interested others.

Culvert and road washout
Culvert washout
backhoe in river by dam
Briggsville Dam Removal site
DER staff at river restoration site
DER staff at river restoration site