An electronic newsletter from the Mass. Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (DER)
Greetings, restoration friends and colleagues:
Change is in the air this July, as we bid a fond farewell and best wishes to former DER Director Tim Purinton. For the past eight years, Tim collaborated with DER staff, agency colleagues, and a tremendous array of partners to promote ecological restoration across Massachusetts. He informed, cajoled, charmed, persuaded, befriended, and allied – all in the name of forging and strengthening partnerships that support DER’s mission. Tim offered us all his steady leadership, creative vision, and – most of all – his great passion and talent for helping others understand and appreciate the benefits that restoration can bring to our environment and our communities. We will miss him greatly, but are also very excited to see the fruits of his future work as Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Maryland/DC Chapter.
A transition in leadership is also underway at the helm of the Department of Fish and Game. Commissioner George Peterson recently retired and our new Commissioner, Ron Amidon, started July 17th. We want to thank George for his strong support of DER and wish him all the best as he enjoys life with his family and pursues his outdoor passions. We look forward to working closely with Commissioner Amidon to advance ecological restoration, especially benefitting from his extensive knowledge of both infrastructure and natural habitats. It is at the intersection of those two realms where DER does much of its work.
Times of change are often bittersweet, where nostalgia for the past mixes with hope and excitement for the future. While we are sad to say farewell to two great colleagues and leaders, all of us at DER are excited about the new possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead to accomplish meaningful restoration work ‘…for the benefit of people and the environment.’
As always, we thank you for your partnership and support - your collaboration makes restoration happen. Please enjoy the articles in this issue of Ebb&Flow that highlight exciting progress across a range of DER projects and other activities.
- Hunt Durey, Acting Director
P.s. – if you haven’t seen yet, check out the recent New York Times article, The ‘Rewilding’ of a Century-Old Cranberry Bog, featuring the recently completed Tidmarsh Farms Restoration Project in Plymouth.
In this Issue
- DER Awards Grants to Restore Rivers by Replacing Outdated Culverts (Brookfield, Boxford)
- Satucket River Restoration Project, Carver Cotton Gin Dam Removal (East Bridgewater)
- Bound Brook Restoration Project, Hunters Pond Dam Removal (Scituate)
- Coonamessett River Restoration Project (Falmouth)
- High Street Dam Removal Feasibility Study Underway (Bridgewater)
- Mill River Restoration Project, West Britannia Dam Removal (Taunton)
- DER Awards Over $1.3 Million for River Restoration Projects
Tim Purinton Says Goodbye
As some of you know, I have left state service and taken a job with The Nature Conservancy in Maryland.
As I take stock of the work completed since 2009 when DER was launched, I am proud of what we have accomplished. Almost 50 dams have been removed to restore rivers and keep communities safe. Two of the largest freshwater wetland restoration projects in the Northeast have been finished in the headwaters of Plymouth’s Eel River and Beaver Dam Brook. We have completed salt marsh restoration projects at the tip of Cape Cod and urban river revitalization projects in old Massachusetts mill towns. Even the tiny Little River Restoration project in Gloucester is a marvel. (In less than 10 acres- a salt marsh, mudflat, floodplain, emergent swamp, and river channel were restored.)
Not only are there great projects on the ground, but we have quantified the tremendous economic and social impacts of ecological restoration. Together we have built a culture of restoration, embedding it into state water policy, and along the way we have significantly advanced our understanding of the science and practice of restoration.
Working with you has been inspirational and our time together has been extremely rewarding. The Division of Ecological Restoration is not just an agency of immensely talented staff, but a collection of strong bonds and lasting partnerships. You have taught me much and I look forward to continuing to restore and protect special places, drawing upon the many experiences we have shared.
Tim Purinton, Former Director
Six DER Priority Projects Anticipated to Receive over $2.6 Million in New Federal Grant Funding
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently announced recommended grants to six ecological restoration projects supported by DER’s Priority Project Program. The six projects restore coastal and riverine habitats and help communities build resiliency to climate change. DER and our project partners work hard to secure federal grants that maximize and stretch the value of limited local and state restoration dollars. On average, each state dollar invested in a project by DER leverages 7 grant dollars. Without federal grants, DER and cash-strapped communities would have a hard time completing these projects. At the same time, without state and local investments, the project teams could not secure the federal grants. Both funding sources are crucial for successful restoration and resilience projects.
NOAA – Coastal and Marine Habitat Restoration Grant Program This multi-year grant program funds projects that restore habitat for the benefit of marine and coastal species.
- Project: Town Brook Restoration: Holmes Dam Removal (Plymouth)
Recommended Funding: $1,500,000
- Project: Monatiquot River Restoration: Dam Removal Design (Braintree)
Recommended Funding: $100,000
- Project: Herring River Estuary Tidal Restoration (Wellfleet/Truro)
Recommended Funding: $285,000
- Project: Coonamessett River Restoration (Falmouth)
Recommended Funding: $45,000
NOAA – Coastal Resilience Grant Program
Projects funded through this program conserve and restore coastal habitats, strengthen the economy, and protect communities from the effects of severe storms.
- Project: Jones River Restoration: Elm Street Dam Removal (Kingston)
Recommended Funding: $553,270
DOI-USFWS – Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Appropriations, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Ecological Monitoring Grant Program
This grant program supports the collection of consistent ecological monitoring data across the northeastern US at habitat restoration sites funded by Hurricane Sandy Costal Resilience grant funds.
- Project: Mill River Restoration: West Britannia and Whittenton Dam Removals (Taunton).
Recommended Funding: $170,000
DER and UMass Amherst Partner to Educate the Next Round of Restoration Practitioners
This fall, DER and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst will partner for the third consecutive year to offer an independent study for graduate and undergraduate students interested in learning about dam removal and river restoration efforts in Massachusetts. The Dam Removal Practicum (as it is known at UMass) integrates students into the project management teams that are working to advance ten dam removals throughout the Commonwealth. In each of the previous two academic years, ten students from the Civil Engineering and Eco-Hydrology Departments at UMass have been selected to participate in the course. Students attend public meetings, participate in project team conferences, review consultant deliverables, and witness dam removal (de)construction in progress. DER’s primary goal for the course is to educate and cultivate future ecological restoration practitioners and assist students with making professional connections for possible career opportunities.
DER recently reached out to several students who successfully completed the course in 2016 to hear what they are doing now and to better understand how the Practicum may have helped to shape their career goals or aspirations.
Kathryn Booras, now an engineer at CDM-Smith, Inc. in Boston, says: “The [Practicum] helped me gain an understanding of the process of dam removal and to know where my contributions would fit in as a hydraulic engineer. Sometimes the larger picture is missed in engineering classes, which often focus on the technical details but don’t always highlight all of the other work that is involved. Dam removals are very interdisciplinary and the practicum gave me an appreciation and understanding of this.”
Similarly, Olivia Dolan, now a staff environmental scientist at Dewberry in Boston, states “The very first project that I was assigned was a small dam rehabilitation project. I felt that the dam removal practicum helped prepare me for this, as it gave me exposure to the regulations and overall processes involving altering dams in Massachusetts. I also benefited from gaining experience looking at and understanding project [design] plans.”
One former student, Gordon Clark, has developed a passion for restoration and has been able to directly apply his Practicum experience to several on-going dam removal projects as a Staff Engineer at Tighe & Bond in Westfield. “The projects that I enjoy doing the most are dam removal and stream restoration projects. I have been involved across a range of tasks from modeling, to permitting, to drafting…I’m very much interested in opportunities where I can help restore rivers to their natural flowing state and reduce the [negative] effects of dams on these aquatic ecosystems. Returning systems to a less impacted state is something that feels very rewarding. I continue to look forward to more opportunities for thoughtful restoration. The Practicum was a great introduction to a field that I have significant interest in.”
DER and UMass plan to host the Practicum for at least another two academic years. DER hopes to encourage another twenty students to consider careers in ecological restoration and looks forward to hearing about more former-student career successes. The Dam Removal Practicum is funded in part by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program.
Blackstone River Coalition Dipping into Social Marketing
Just over a year ago DER hosted a training to introduce an alternative approach, known as social marketing, to more effectively influence an audience (see the July, 2016 issue of Ebb&Flow for a summary). Staff and volunteers from 15 different water quality monitoring groups attended the two day training led by Dr. Bill Smith, a social marketing pioneer with over 35 years of experience. Not to be confused with social media, social marketing defies many of our long standing approaches to outreach and education. Traditional outreach almost universally relies on disseminating facts in the belief that an informed audience will change their behavior or undertake some other action based on the information provided. The need to reassess traditional methods can be found in your group’s outreach history and objectively measuring how often your fact-based educational efforts achieved the desired result. In contrast to informational campaigns, social marketing focuses on identifying the barriers to and the benefits realized from a desired action. This approach has amassed some impressive successes.
Building on the enthusiasm of the workshop and feedback from attendees, DER released a solicitation to develop a campaign to test the efficacy of a social marketing approach to encouraging behaviors to improve water quality and to provide a real-world learning experience for a watershed association. Training and exposure to a couple of days of inspiring and thought provoking social marketing examples at the DER workshop was enough to encourage the Blackstone River Watershed groups to respond to the solicitation.
The Blackstone River Coalition (BRC) has an extensive volunteer-based water quality monitoring program with over 80 sites and dozens of volunteers. They have produced an annual report card on the status of their waterways for over a decade showing a simple color coded synopsis of the water quality of the mainstem Blackstone River and its tributaries. The BRC also completed an extensive trend analysis of their data to further bolster their water quality findings. Complementary work to encourage homeowners and businesses to adopt low impact and green infrastructure is another component of their outreach work. Despite this extensive outreach and education program, their efforts have not catalyzed the desired change in people’s perceptions of the river nor in their personal behaviors. The BRC wanted to know if social marketing techniques could improve their effectiveness.
With funding from DER, the BRC is well on their way to piloting two small campaigns over the coming year to explore the social marketing approach. The intent is to both familiarize BRC volunteers with a social marketing approach and to evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign to improve the water quality and profile of the Blackstone River and its tributaries. An intensive two day working session was held in June facilitated by Bill Smith- the social marketing professional who led the DER workshop last year. Together the group worked on identifying a goal, an audience and an evaluation methodology. The process of identifying these key components was a fascinating and challenging undertaking.
The goal had to be realistic and measurable in order to assess the effectiveness of the campaign methods. An initial hurdle was reigning in expectations. The goal(s) needed to be reasonable for the time and resources available. Selecting the target audience, using the tools and techniques of social marketing, meant identifying those with an inclination toward doing the desired action. This audience, the one with the ‘seedling’ already established and ready to be watered, was more desirable than an audience where the seed had not even been planted. After two intense days, the BRC developed two pilot campaigns crafted in a way to allow the BRC to evaluate what method delivered the most impact for the smallest investment of resources, (staff/volunteer time and money). The group identified a reliable and relatively easy evaluation method for both campaigns.
With the campaigns detailed, the BRC is poised to launch both efforts this summer. BRC volunteers will be interacting with their selected audiences at different venues to determine if different settings, and the audience found there, elicit a difference in response. The results will help the BRC compare success achieved versus effort expended to find the best fit approach for their organization. The BRC will also pilot a new approach, using marketing techniques rather than fact based arguments, to encourage homeowners to adopt a modest change on their property to reduce nonpoint source pollution. Stay tuned for a future update in Ebb&Flow on the results of the BRC efforts.
DER Awards Grants to Restore Rivers by Replacing Outdated Culverts (Brookfield, Boxford)
The towns of Brookfield and Boxford will each receive $25,000 to replace degraded culverts with structures that meet the Massachusetts River and Stream Crossing Standards. Additionally, these projects will be included in DER’s Culvert Replacement Training Initiative, which trains local road managers on best practices for culvert replacement. These two projects, in additions to our Ashfield site, will serve as case studies and training locations that can help neighboring towns understand what’s involved in constructing culverts to meet the standards and hopefully initiate upgrade projects of their own.
“River restoration through culvert replacement provides multiple benefits to the ecosystem including improved water quality and expanded habitat for aquatic organisms, while improving fishing opportunities for anglers,” said former Department of Fish and Game Commissioner George N. Peterson, Jr.
Nearly half of Massachusetts’ estimated 30,000 culverts are undersized and act as barriers to fish and wildlife movement. Undersized culverts can also pose a serious risk to public safety when flood waters back up behind them and overtop roads. Replacing culverts to meet the Massachusetts Stream Crossing Standards allows streams, and the fish and storm water they carry, to flow more naturally beneath road crossings. Recent studies have also found that culvert replacements that meet these standards are often less expensive than traditional in-kind replacements when costs are factored over the lifespan of the crossing structure.
DER helps municipalities replace existing undersized culverts with better designed structures that meet ecological and public safety design criteria, ultimately resulting in improvements to stream health and a reduction in roadway and flood hazards. Earlier this summer DER launched the Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant Program. We received a great state-wide response to the grant RFR and applications are currently being reviewed. These grants will be used to help municipalities fund culvert replacement projects to meet the Stream Crossing Standards.
Satucket River Restoration Project, Carver Cotton Gin Dam Removal (East Bridgewater)
The Carver Cotton Gin Dam is rated as a “Significant Hazard” dam in “Unsafe” condition by the Massachusetts Office of Dam Safety. Its failure jeopardizes an upstream bridge. Located on the Satucket River, the Cotton Gin Dam is the first dam from the ocean with no fish passage. DER, The Nature Conservancy, and other partners announced this project for construction bids in June 2017. A contractor will be selected in July for an anticipated construction start date in August. The dam removal will restore access to 13 miles of river corridor and 652 acres of river herring spawning habitat. The project has been in the planning and design stages since the early 2000s and became a DER Priority Project in 2014. Funders include the National Fish and Wildlife (NFWF) Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resilience Program, the NOAA Restoration Center, and the Massachusetts Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Program.
Bound Brook Restoration Project, Hunters Pond Dam Removal (Scituate)
The Town of Scituate, in partnership with the DER, NOAA Restoration Center, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has begun removing the Hunters Pond Dam. The construction contractor, T. Ford, Inc., broke ground in late June and anticipates completing work by the end of August. The Hunters Pond Dam was rated in “Poor” condition and a “Significant Hazard” dam by the Massachusetts Office of Dam Safety. Removal will open up approximately five miles of river corridor, restore natural tidal flow to Hunters Pond, and allow access to 180 acres of spawning habitat in Lily Pond and Aaron Reservoir. The project has been in planning and design stages since 2012. Funders of the construction phase include the NFWF Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resilience Program, and the Massachusetts Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Program, among others.
Coonamessett River Restoration Project (Falmouth)
The Town of Falmouth together with DER, NOAA, the Coonamesett River Trust, the 300 Committee and other partners is poised to go out to bid for a construction firm to complete Phase 1 of the Coonamessett River Restoration Project. Phase 1 includes the removal of the first dam on the Coonamessett River and restoration of wetlands and riverine habitat in a 17-acre former cranberry bog. Additional barrier removal and habitat restoration work along the lower river will take place in coming years. This project brings together many local organizations, teachers, and students as well as state and federal agencies. Funding for construction comes from the NOAA Restoration Center, NFWF, DER, and the Massachusetts Environmental Trust. Partners in addition to those listed above include multiple Town departments, the MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the MA Division of Marine Fisheries, and the Botanical Club of Cape Cod and the Islands, among others.
The Coonamessett River Trust is leading an active citizen-science effort to track river herring populations before and after habitat restoration and barrier removal take place. For more information about river herring tagging and tracking, please see this website: https://jonesaw4.wixsite.com/crt2017tagging.
Three schools recently won the state-wide Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education Award from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for their work integrating the Coonamessett River and its restoration into the curriculum. Read the recent press release for more information.
High Street Dam Removal Feasibility Study Underway (Bridgewater)
The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with the DER and the Division of Marine Fisheries, has contracted with Milone & MacBroom to perform an engineering study to assess the feasibility of removing the High Street Dam. The dam is rated in “Unsafe” condition by the Office of Dam Safety and poses a risk to public safety. The dam also impedes migratory fish passage, interrupts natural river processes, and contributes to localized flooding. The study will assess the quantity and quality of the sediment trapped behind the dam, how the dam may interact with the High Street Bridge and other nearby infrastructure, and present a series of design alternatives and cost estimates for removing or repairing the dam. The first public meeting for the project, held in November 2016, provided information to the public about the start of the feasibility study. A second meeting will be held upon completion of the feasibility study to discuss the results and solicit public feedback. The project team anticipates completing the feasibility study in the fall of 2017.
Mill River Restoration Project, West Britannia Dam Removal (Taunton)
After many years of planning, DER, The Nature Conservancy, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and partners will remove the West Britannia Dam in the fall of 2017. This dam removal is the final element in the Mill River Restoration Project, which includes the removal of three dams, construction of a fish ladder at a fourth dam, and a long term effort to improve storm water and streamflow in the river. The dam is owned by Acuity Management. The Nature Conservancy will manage dam deconstruction. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is leading post-restoration diadromous fish monitoring. Funding for the construction phase of the project comes from the Department of Interior Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resilience Program through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Mill River Natural Resources Damages grant program, NOAA’s Community Based Restoration Program, and other sources.
Other partners in the 10-year Mill River Restoration Project include the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, Save the Bay, MassAudubon, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, American Rivers, The MA Department of Mental Health, the City of Taunton Emergency Management Agency, MA Department of Transportation, the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, and many others. When complete, river herring, American eel, and other species will have access to over 30 miles of mainstem and tributary habitat as well as hundreds of acres of lake and pond spawning habitat.
An earlier phase of this project removed the Hopewell Mills Dam, a dam upstream of the West Britannia Dam. The photo sequence below shows how the river and previous dam impoundment have shifted since that time.
DER Awards Over $1.3 Million for River Restoration Projects
DER will be awarding $1,352,250 in state and federal grant funds for five river restoration projects – all DER Priority Projects. When completed these projects will reconnected more than 60 miles of river and eliminate the threat of dam failure.
“Priority Projects have left their mark throughout every region of the Commonwealth, and once these projects are completed, the river systems in these communities and the ecosystems they support will be stronger and better prepared for the effects of climate change” said Governor Charlie Baker.
Projects receiving program funds include:
- Mill River Restoration (Taunton) - The Mill River Restoration Project brings together federal, state, and local agencies and NGOs with dam owners to remove three dams along the Mill River in Taunton and construct a fish ladder at a fourth dam. Two of the three dams have been removed, and the fish ladder has been constructed. West Britannia Dam is slated for removal this year (also see article in this Ebb&Flow).
- Cotley River Restoration Project (Taunton)- The Cotley River Restoration Project is being led by the non-profit Taunton Development Corporation with technical assistance from DER, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA Fisheries. Removal of this aging dam will open 8 miles of habitat for wildlife on this tributary to the federally-designated Wild and Scenic portion of the Taunton River.
- Lower Coonamessett River Restoration Project (Falmouth) - The goal of the Lower Coonamessett River Restoration Project is to remove an aging dam and restore 11 acres of former cranberry bog to natural wetland habitat. (also see article in this Ebb&Flow)
- Satucket River Restoration Project (East Bridgewater) - The Satucket River Restoration Project brings together federal, state, and local agencies and NGOs with private dam owners to remove an aging dam on the Satucket River in East Bridgewater. The Carver Cotton Gin Dam is slated for removal in 2017. (also see article in this Ebb&Flow)
- Town Brook Restoration Project (Plymouth) - The Town Brook Restoration Project is a multi-phase effort to address all aquatic species barriers, manage contaminated sediments, improve water quality, and address public safety risks on the historic brook in downtown Plymouth. The final phase of this 12-phase project is the removal of the town-owned Holmes Dam and replacement of the aging Newfield Street Bridge.
Free Summer Field Trips Explain the Effects of Tidal Restriction and Restoration
Join us Friends of the Herring River on Tuesday August 15th to learn first-hand about the effects of tidal restriction and restoration in Herring River. Retired Cape Cod National Seashore Ecologist John Portnoy will lead the field walk & talk sessions. The session will start at the National Seashore Parking Lot on Griffin Island at 9 am and follow the trail to the natural salt marsh near the Town Landing. All are welcome and there is no charge. Anyone interested in participating is asked to rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The annual state-wide beach cleanup sponsored by CZM, kicks off in September – you can sign up now to be a local cleanup coordinator for your favorite beach, marsh, dive site, and riverbank. Cleanups will be scheduled throughout September and October. To get involved, see the COASTSWEEP website.
Preparing Coastal Communities for Sea Level Rise
The Gulf of Maine Research Institute will present Preparing Coastal Communities for Sea Level Rise a 90 minute interactive experience to explore the data behind sea level rise and examine potential resiliency measures in Portland, Maine several dates this summer and fall.. You can register online.
Northeast Aquatic Connectivity project tool
Developed as part of the North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative, this tool can be used to explore the impacts of individual dams and road-stream crossings on aquatic connectivity and anadromous fish in particular, and help inform restoration activities. A project report which includes descriptions of the input data, methodology, and a user guide for the web map is available from within the tool.
Coast Guide Online Launched
An interactive mapping tool developed by CZM Coast Guide Online includes more than 1,800 sites along the Massachusetts coast that are owned by government agencies (state, local, and federal) and nonprofits and open to the public. This tool allows users to zoom in to view sites and click pop-up boxes displaying the site information. Coast Guide Online will continually be updated. CZM is holding a Coast Guide Online Photo Contest so they have a photo for all sites. Submit a photo of one of the Coast Guide Online sites and be entered to win a 2018 MassParks Pass from the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Photo Contest runs through September 22.
Environmental License Plate
Does your car have an environmental license plate? The Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET) provides funding to many river, wetland and other water resources protection and restoration projects throughout the Commonwealth. A major source of MET’s funding comes from the sale of environmental license plates. Getting an environmental plate is easy and can be done on-line by clicking here, or in person at your local Registry of Motor Vehicles office.
Hunt Durey, Acting Director
Eileen Goldberg, Assistant Director
Carrie Banks, Stream Team and Westfield River Wild and Scenic Committee Coordinator
Kate Bentsen, Streamflow Restoration Specialist
Tim Chorey, Stream Continuity Specialist
Michelle Craddock, Watershed Ecologist
Cindy Delpapa, Riverways Program Manager
Kristen Ferry, Aquatic Habitat Restoration Specialist
Eric Ford, Restoration Specialist
Alex Hackman, Project Manager
Kris Houle, Ecological Restoration Specialist
Georgeann Keer, Project Manager
Beth Lambert, Aquatic Habitat Restoration Program Manager
Megan Sampson, Program Administrator
Nick Wildman, Restoration Specialist
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Charles D. Baker, Governor
Karyn E. Polito, Lieutenant Governor
Matthew A. Beaton, Secretary, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Ronald S. Amidon Commissioner, Department of Fish and Game
Mary-Lee King, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Fish and Game
Division of Ecological Restoration (DER)
DER Boston Office
251 Causeway St. Suite 400
Boston, MA 02114
DER Westfield Office
544 Western Avenue
Westfield MA 01086