A Note from the Director
Readers of this newsletter who are familiar with the Massachusetts Bays Program (MBP) know that we are funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and hosted by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM). Though we rely on this federal and state support, it is our mission to protect and restore the Bays by working directly with the communities that border their shores. Particularly in Massachusetts, where home rule is, indeed, the rule, we depend on these local connections and contributions to bring to fruition the habitat and water quality protection efforts that are the hallmark of the MBP.
To make those local connections happen, MBP relies on the services of local non-profits and regional planning agencies. These groups provide a critical bridge for interaction and cooperation with communities by promoting the mission of the MBP to the people working "on the ground". They also help MBP to determine where to best direct our resources in each of our unique regions. This summer, MBP reaffirmed its commitment to these local partnerships by renewing contracts with our four existing regional coordinators: the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission (Upper North Shore region), Salem Sound Coastwatch (Salem Sound region), the North and South Rivers Watershed Association (South Shore region), and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod (Cape Cod region).
The partnerships that are cultivated through these contracts provide us an incredible return on our investment. The relationships provide MBP with access to the full resources of these programs, the local networks of environmental managers and stewards available to them, and the many grants and in-kind services they are able to leverage towards our shared priorities.
I have found the knowledge and experience of these regional partners to be an invaluable resource during my own transition into the Mass Bays Program, and the relationships are already beginning to bear new fruit as we develop new habitat protection strategies and targets for the coming years. It is these relationships that allow MBP to work outside if the bounds of government and truly be a stakeholder-driven program.
-- Jay Baker, MBP Executive Director
Massachusetts Wetlands to Benefit from Federal Stimulus Funding
In late June, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced grants for coastal habitat restoration projects funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. From a pool of 814 applicants, 50 projects were selected for funding, including the Town of Brewster's Stony Brook. In addition to the Town, the MBP has joined a dynamic team of other committed partners working on this effort, including the MBP's Cape Cod program host, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod . Other partners include the MA Department of Fish & Game's Division of Ecological Restoration (formerly the Wetlands Restoration Program) and the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History.
The $1.3 million grant will be used to replace the undersized tidal culvert running under Route 6A (see photo) with larger, twin box culverts. This will enable greater natural tidal exchange and improve herring passage to 386 acres of prime herring spawning grounds upstream. Increased tidal exchange will restore 20 acres of salt marsh and 3,000 linear feet of stream habitat. Additionally, the restored system will offer the area greater protection from flooding and storm surge. Increased tidal flushing will also inhibit the growth of invasive non-native plant species currently found in the Stony Brook salt marsh.
Entire MBP Region to Benefit from MET Grant
The North and South River Watershed Association (NSRWA), host of the MBP's South Shore program, was awarded a $25,750 grant from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET) Massachusetts Environmental Trust to acquire and deploy temperature and water-level data loggers in important fish runs throughout the MBP region from the New Hampshire border to Provincetown. The funds received will help the NSRWA and MBP address two major ecological concerns - the rapid decline of diadromous fish populations (migratory fish such as herring and eels) in coastal streams and rivers, and changes in temperature and flow regime due to climate change. Volunteer fish counting projects will be established and/or supplemented in each MBP subregion so that fish counts can be paired with the environmental data from the data loggers (see photo of fish counting station).
In addition, the grant will enable MBP to develop a database for the information collected that will be shared with resource managers. An outreach workshop will be held, at which staff and volunteers involved with local fish counts learn how the data is being used by local, state, and federal agencies to inform decisions related to fisheries management and climate change. This workshop will also provide an opportunity to share information about regional and national efforts to protect and restore diadromous fish populations, and for local groups to share ideas and methods related to citizen stewardship of these important habitats.
Upward Bound Youth Get to Know the Shore
Reaching out to youth and teaching them about watershed ecology have been important summer activities for Salem Sound Coastwatch (SSCW), the MBP's regional host in the Salem Sound region. As the service partner of the Upward Bound Program at Salem State College, SSCW staff worked with 45 teens in July, leading them on beach clean ups, pepperweed pulls and storm drain stenciling. Many of the students had never spent time exploring the intertidal zone, and they had a blast spending the last day searching for Asian shore crabs and European green crabs.
The Eight Towns & the Bay Committee, which advises the work of the MBP's Upper North Shore program along with host Merrimack Valley Planning Commission , has launched a marine invasive species monitoring program at half a dozen sites in Ipswich, Essex, Rockport, and Gloucester. Often introduced accidentally by human activities such as shipping, fisheries, and the pet trade, marine invasive species can overwhelm the ecosystem. They have the potential to smother or outcompete native species for space and food (see photo), impede navigation and recreation, and result in economic losses. Volunteers are utilizing training and equipment provided by CZM, who coordinates the Marine Invader Monitoring Information Collaborative (MIMIC). The monthly monitoring will continue through the autumn and findings are fed into MIMIC's database along with data collected by over 100 volunteers from Rhode Island to Maine.
Volunteers also played an important role in Salem Sound Coastwatch invasive species management activities this summer. Teams of volunteers have been monitoring non-native species at rocky shores and floating docks, and employees of Timberland's Peabody store and students from Marblehead and Salem schools removed stands of the invasive perennial pepperweed from Salem Sound beaches. Additionally, a regular cadre of volunteers collect samples of water from area stormwater outfall pipes to test for bacterial pollution, and these results are shared with public health officials.
Volunteers Needed for Mudflat Monitoring in Gloucester
In late September and October, Salem Sound Coastwatch's (SSCW) will be back at Mill River in Gloucester (see photo) to survey for clams and worms returning to the mudflat since the tide gate was opened four years ago. If you like to play in the mud, volunteer for a day or two! For more information, email SSCW or check out their website where you can also see photos of last year's sampling.
Rain Gardens Featured in Boston Globe Magazine's "Green Issue"
In the Spring issue of the Mass Bays Window, we reported on the success of establishing rain gardens throughout our region. Rain gardens and MBP South Shore coordinator Sara Grady were highlighted in July's "Green Issue" of Boston Globe Magazine. Check it out - and consider how you might incorporate this low-cost, water-saving, and pollutant-reducing feature in your yard or elsewhere in your community!
Inner Little Harbor Report Now Available Online
The MBP and CZM recently completed a report file size 4MB on tide levels and water quality in Cohasset's Inner Little Harbor (ILH) based on monitoring conducted in 2008. The ecological health and management of ILH have long been of local concern, and the area suffers from the problems of stagnant water, eutrophication, habitat fragmentation and reduced habitat value, nuisance algal blooms, and poor aesthetic appearance. The report states that the presence and current management of tide gates at Cat Dam, which regulate tidal exchange from ILH, are directly linked to the poor water quality, limited fish and wildlife passage, and overall impairment of the water body. It recommends that the gates be fully or partially opened, or managed in such a way as to allow for significant tidal flushing. Requested by and prepared for the Cohasset Town Manager and Conservation Commission, the results will help to inform management decisions that will be developed and implemented through a tidal gate operation and management plan.
Sara's Swim for Clean Water
Sara Grady, MBP's South Shore Regional Coordinator, recently undertook a huge effort to swim the typically "paddling-only" Great River Race to highlight the issue of stormwater pollution and water quality in the North and South rivers. As of writing, Sara's swim has raised $1,970 for her employer and the event's host, the North and South River Watershed Association . With a little help from a tidal current, swim fins, and the knowledge that her effort was being supported by appreciative citizen, she swam the 7-mile race from the Marshfield Canoe Launch to the Hanover's Washington Street Bridge in 3 hours, 8 minutes and 7 seconds.
Wetland Monitoring Continues with Cohasset Center for Student Coastal Research
With assistance from MBP, several of the MA Division of Ecological Restoration's (formerly the Wetlands Restoration Program) priority wetland sites on the South Shore continue to be monitored by students from the Cohasset Center for Student Coastal Research . MBP and the North and South River Watershed Association have been providing expertise in benthic macroinvertebrate sampling and identification, and also conducted a nekton identification workshop for the team leaders in July.
Produced in August 2009