Contact: Mark Rousseau
Effective June 8, 2013 the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) establishing a program for in-lieu fee (ILF) compensatory mitigation requirements for permits issued by the ACOE in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has expired. The option of participating in the MA ILF program as an alternative to permittee responsible mitigation for impacts occurring under the ACOE’s MA General Permit (GP) is no longer available. However, as discussed below, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is in the process of seeking the ACOE’s approval to become the program sponsor of a state-wide ILF program, which will include a coastal component that is similar to the now-expired DMF ILF program.
The DMF ILF Program addressed authorized impacts to aquatic resources and habitats of diadromous fish and marine finfish and shellfish species in Massachusetts’ waters resulting from projects permitted under the Massachusetts GP. DMF administered this program under the direction of an Interagency Review Team (IRT) consisting of representatives from the ACOE, Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and DFG. ILF fee payments were tracked according to the habitat types and regions impacted and reported to the ACOE annually. Between 2009 and 2013, twenty-five projects impacting 18,974 ft2 of aquatic habitats contributed $228,925.00 into the program.
Proposals for potential restoration projects to be funded using ILF funds were solicited in December of 2012 through a request for proposals (RFP) publicized on the Commonwealth’s Comm-PASS system. Projects were selected for funding using a project-ranking tool developed through a grant received from the Massachusetts Bays Program (MBP). More information on this program is included below. A committee of eight reviewers from state, federal and watershed groups used the developed tool to rank eight project proposals received through the solicitation. Proposals covered an array of different project types including Phragmites (common reed) control, dam removal, eelgrass test plot planting, and others. The applicant pool included state and town agencies, universities and non-profit organizations. Three projects were selected for funding through this process:
Project 1. Off Billington Street Dam Removal Project - Plymouth
The Town of Plymouth was awarded $128,202.00 to facilitate the removal of the Off Billington Street Dam. The structure will be replaced with an arch bridge in order to improve water quality, and contaminated sediment from behind the dam will be removed. The project is expected to provide unimpeded fish passage for alewife, blueback herring, and American eel and is part of a larger comprehensive approach to restoring the historic anadromous fish run at Town Brook, eventually re-establishing river herring access to 269 acres of spawning habitat once all phases of the project are completed. The project will open an additional 400 linear feet of stream habitat at a total estimated cost of almost $1.5 million dollars. Funds from the ILFP will be used to vegetate the exposed stream banks once the dam is removed.
Project 2. Rough Meadows - Rowley
The Massachusetts Audubon Society was awarded $14,704.00 to fund a project that will contribute to the restoration of salt marsh and immediately adjacent brackish marsh at Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Rowley, Massachusetts. ILF funds will be used over a three-year period for treatments necessary to accomplish the eradication or near eradication of targeted common reed stands. Successful implementation will result in the restoration of approximately 5.5 acres of marsh habitat and reduce the likelihood of the spread of common reed to additional areas. Elimination of the targeted common reed colonies will improve marsh ecosystem health and reduce the spread of common reed as the result of disturbance associated with climate change and coastal alterations throughout the region. In addition, the control of common reed should facilitate the migration of salt marsh as sea level rises as predicted by climate change models.
Project 3. Upper Great Marsh – Newbury
The Merrimack Valley Planning Commission (MVPC) was awarded $23,800.00 for a Phragmites control project located in the Upper Great Marsh in Newbury. The goal of the proposed project is to return a large section (approximately 1,000 acres) of the northern end of the Great Marsh in Plum Island Sound to a healthy, natural state. As Phragmites is removed from the open, high marsh and native vegetation naturally re-colonizes these areas, the natural functions of the marsh, that have been impaired by the invasive monocultural growth, the vegetative, benthic, finfish, shellfish, and avian diversity is expected to return.
DMF is responsible for tracking the implementation and completion of all projects funded through ILF and will continue in this role until all projects have been successfully completed. All funded projects are required to submit annual monitoring reports to DMF for a period of five years. Additional information on the MA ILF Program can be found in the links to the annual reports listed below.
New MA ILF Program under development
Notwithstanding the expiration of DMF’s ILF Program, both DFG and the ACOE recognize the need and value in establishing a state-wide ILF Program for Massachusetts. To that end, DFG submitted a Prospectus for a proposed state-wide ILFP in accordance with the federal 2008 mitigation rule to the ACOE on September 26, 2012. DFG’s Prospectus underwent a 30 day public comment period that ended on November 1, 2012. On November 28, 2012, the ACOE determined, based on its review of the Prospectus and the public comments, that DFG’s proposed ILFP has the potential to provide compensatory mitigation for activities authorized by the ACOE, as required by 33 CFR 332.8(d)(5), as well as other related actions. Accordingly, the ACOE authorized DFG to proceed with the development of a draft ILF Instrument.
Since that time, DFG has been working on its proposed ILF Program Instrument, which will encompass both small-sized projects covered under the GP and larger individual ACOE permit (IP) projects. DFG expects to formally submit its proposed ILF Instrument to the ACOE later this summer, with a goal of implementing an ACOE-approved ILF program by the end of 2013.
MBP Project: Prioritizing Restoration Opportunities
Funding for a project entitled Identifying and Prioritizing Restoration Opportunities for Coastal Aquatic Habitats in the Massachusetts Bays Region was awarded to MarineFisheries in February 2012 by the Massachusetts Bays Program to 1) investigate information gaps within the Mass Bays region that need to be identified when developing habitat restoration priority lists, and 2) develop a sustainable methodology for ranking priority restoration sites on a larger, regional scale. Regional restoration information gaps were assessed by comparing coastal impacts to coastal restoration potential. The MarineFisheries Environmental Review log was queried for alteration projects (impacts) in coastal communities within the MBP region. Potential restoration project data were collected from websites and phone interviews of local and regional stakeholder groups. Both datasets were mapped by habitat type and community and examined for gaps. We found a great deal of variability in both impacts and restoration potential: the majority of impacts were to intertidal, stream and open water habitats, with a spatial concentration in the metro-Boston region; whereas the majority of potential restoration projects were for stream and salt marsh habitats, with spatial concentrations in the Upper North Shore and Cape Cod regions. To gather input regarding these gaps we hosted two regional stakeholder workshops, which generated a valuable discussion among relevant organizations.
A project ranking tool and guidance document were developed for use when prioritizing habitat restoration projects. The tool is a scoring worksheet and guidance document that allows reviewers to numerically rank projects based on potential socio-economic and ecosystem function benefits and a project’s technical merit/logistics. It was designed to be highly adaptable to meet the individual needs of users. This tool was tested in a case study by the MA ILF Program (INSERT LINK) project review committee to score and select proposals for funding under a recent grant opportunity.
For the final report, ranking tool and other project materials please visit the links below. For questions about this project or assistance using the tool, contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.