Coastal restoration opportunities although numerous are often difficult to compare. Projects often differ by resource area type, proximity to nearby natural resources, socio-economic benefits, cost, planning horizon, and permitting requirements. In light of these issues, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) addressed the following questions through this Mass Bays funded project: 1) Are there significant information gaps within the Mass Bays region that need to be identified when developing habitat restoration priority lists, and 2) Can a sustainable methodology for assessing priority restoration sites on a larger, regional scale be developed?
By identifying and prioritizing restoration activities within the Mass Bays region, DMF can make informed and appropriate decisions when administering the In-Lieu Fee (ILF) program or other potential mitigation funding sources to achieve the goal of no net loss to aquatic habitat area, functions and values. Additionally, the development of a project ranking tool allows managers and stakeholders to compare potential restoration projects across multiple habitat types and communities, with the goal of improving project selection and the likelihood of restoration success.
Two stakeholder workshops were hosted by DMF to gather regional input and generate a discussion among relevant state, federal, and non profit organizations regarding regional restoration knowledge. The stakeholders also reviewed and provided input into the development of a project ranking tool for prioritizing habitat restoration projects. The tool includes a scoring worksheet that allows reviewers to numerically rank projects based on potential socio-economic and ecosystem function benefits as well as technical merit/logistics. The tool was designed to be adapted depending on the users' needs. DMF also developed a guidance document to accompany the tool. The guidance document defines key terms and provides explanation for each scoring parameter. This tool was used by DMF in the evaluation of projects applying for ILF funding in December of 2012. A eight member review team used the project ranking tool to score and select three restoration projects for funding.
The final report provides details of the project ranking tool and the guidance document Identifying and Prioritizing Restoration Opportunities for Coastal Aquatic Habitats in the Massachusetts Bays Region. MA Division of Marine Fisheries. 2012.