For Immediate Release - March 05, 2013

Patrick-Murray Administration Awards $166,000 in Grants to Restore Coastal Aquatic Habitats in Plymouth, Rowley, and Newbury

BOSTON – Tuesday, March 5, 2013 – Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan today announced the award of three grants that will improve water quality and fish passage in Plymouth’s Town Brook and restore critical salt marsh habitat in the North Shore’s 20,000 acre Great Marsh, the largest salt marsh in all of New England.

The program is funded by contributions developers working in coastal areas provide to the Massachusetts’ Marine Mammals and Fisheries Research and Conservation Trust, in lieu of providing on-site mitigation.

“These are the first projects funded through the in-lieu fee program that was established in 2009,” said Secretary Sullivan. “We are pleased to see the initial results of our partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers and others and look forward to the program’s support of coastal aquatic restoration projects, fisheries research, and marine mammal protection.”

Since the program’s inception in 2009, 17 projects affecting about 16,400 square feet of aquatic habitats have taken advantage of the program to satisfy their mitigation requirements. Through a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) is responsible for administering the Massachusetts in-lieu fee (ILF) program.

“Restoration of coastal wetlands and tidal rivers is critical for anadromous fish such as river herring, American eel, and American shad, and also provides important habitat for breeding and migratory waterfowl, shore birds, and many other wildlife species,” said Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin, whose agency includes DMF.

ILF is an alternative option to permittee-responsible mitigation for addressing authorized impacts to aquatic resources and habitats resulting from projects permitted under the Corps’ General Permit.

The program was developed by an inter-agency review team consisting of representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service, DFG and DMF.

Restoration project proposals were solicited through an RFR process, and a committee comprised of state and federal resource agency and watershed group representatives reviewed submissions. Submitted project proposals covered an array of potential restoration projects including Phragmites control, dam removal, and eelgrass test plot planting.

Applicants included state and town agencies, universities and non-profit organizations. Using a project-ranking tool developed through a grant from the Massachusetts Bays Program, the review committee chose to award funds to a dam removal project in Plymouth, a Phragmites removal and control project in Rowley, and a Phragmites control project in Newbury.

In Plymouth, $128,200 was provided for a portion of the Town Brook Dam Removal Project, submitted by the Town of Plymouth’s Department of Marine and Environmental Affairs. The goal of this project is to remove the Off Billington Street Dam and replace it with an arch bridge in order to improve water quality, remove contaminated sediment, and provide unimpeded fish passage for alewife, blueback herring, and American eel.

In addition to the ILF funds provided by DMF, the town has collaborated with DFG and its Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, American Rivers, Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, and Billington Sea/Town Brook Association for funding to complete the project. ILF funds will be used to reconstruct channel features and provide contractual services for sediment reuse, removal, and disposal, as well as bank stabilization and plantings of various wetland features. The on the ground work for this project is expected to begin in spring 2013.

In Rowley, $14,700 was provided for common reed control in the Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary, a conservation property managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. The goal of this project is to restore an area of salt marsh and adjacent brackish marsh through the control of the invasive plant common reed (Phragmites australis) at the 250-acre sanctuary. The project is expected to accomplish the eradication or near eradication of the targeted common reed stands in approximately 5.5 acres of salt marsh. The control of common reed should facilitate the migration of salt marsh as sea level rises as predicted by climate change models. The project also contains an annual monitoring component aimed at the control of any remaining or reestablished common reed colonies.

In Newbury, $23,800 was provided for a project entitled “Phragmites australis Control in the Upper Great Marsh, North Shore, Massachusetts,” submitted by the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission (MVPC) in partnership with the Great Marsh Revitalization Task Force (GMRTF). The GMRTF is an assemblage of stakeholders consisting of federal, state, local, nonprofit, and academic groups, working together on short-term and long-term actions to manage and control the invasive species threatening native habitats of the Great Marsh.

The goal of this project is to return a large section of the Great Marsh in Plum Island Sound to a healthy, natural state. As phragmites is removed from the open, high marsh, native vegetation is expected to re-colonize areas, restoring the natural functions of the marsh.  MVPC plans to use the results of this project effort in other coastal regions of the state. This task will begin in 2013 and completed by summer 2014.

DFG is responsible for promoting the conservation and enjoyment of the Commonwealth's natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land protection and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and wildlife species, and ecological restoration of fresh water, salt water, and terrestrial habitats. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.