For Immediate Release - May 27, 2009

State Environmental Officials Gather to Celebrate Restoration Efforts on the Neponset River

BOSTON - Environment Undersecretary Philip Griffiths joined state lawmakers, community leaders and other environmental officials in Dorchester today to sign an agreement listing recommendations for restoring the Neponset River.

Recommendations include the partial removal of the Tileston and Hollingsworth Dam, and modification of the Baker Dam to allow a nature-like fishway, with full remediation of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-contaminated sediments - the result of decades of industrial pollution.

Ceremony attendees included members of The Lower Neponset River Citizens Advisory Committee, a 26-member group that represents organizations, associations, and neighborhoods with an abiding interest in the Lower Neponset River. First convened in May 2008, the group's goal is to evaluate and provide guidance on ecological restoration alternatives for the river.

Over the next several months, state officials, committee members and their partners will seek grant funding for engineering work in support of a preliminary design for both sites. Simultaneously, a public review process will take place via the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA).

"Urban rivers like the Neponset are important natural assets," said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles. "We applaud the efforts of the wide array of citizens groups who have partnered with state and local officials to create solutions that will improve the ecological integrity of this river."

"Protecting the state's waterways takes a joint effort of stewardship among citizens, community groups and government," said Environment Undersecretary Philip Griffiths. "We're thrilled to participate in this celebration and begin the next phase of restoring this river."

The Citizens Advisory Committee met eight times between May 2008 and March 2009. During these meetings, members invited guest presenters to provide information on a range of relevant technical issues, including sediment and soil contamination, fish passage, flood control, public access, and technical feasibility. The committee was convened at the request of Senator Jack Hart, Senator Brian A. Joyce, Senator Marian Walsh, Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, Representative Walter F. Timilty, and Representative Angelo M. Scaccia.

"I am delighted with this important additional step in our over ten year collaborative efforts to both clean up and open up to the public's use and enjoyment the majestically beautiful Neponset River," said Senator Brian A. Joyce.

"The Neponset River project is important not only because it is restoring a wonderful resource in our community, but also because the process involved a variety of stakeholders," said Senator Jack Hart. "The civic interest and participation brought fresh ideas to the table and I want to thank everyone who was involved."

"The vitality of the Neponset River is of upmost importance to our communities," said Senator Marian Walsh. "The measures recommended by the Committee will address pollutants in the river, while also restoring its ecological balance, enabling us to protect the public health and the natural environment for the area's wildlife."

"I am thrilled that this process to clean up the Neponset River is going forward," said Representative Linda Dorcena Forry. "For the last year, we have engaged in a great dialogue among various government agencies and concerned citizens around the most environmentally friendly way to restore this wonderful gem. I look forward to seeing this project to completion and watching a clean Neponset River flow through Dorchester, Mattapan and Milton."

"The Neponset River is the lifeblood of the communities that it traverses," said Representative Walter F. Timilty. "In order for it to continue to benefit the residents of the surrounding communities, we must do whatever possible to keep the river in its best possible condition."

The committee's activities involved input from EEA, the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the city of Boston, and the Consensus Building Institute of Cambridge.

"Committee members represented diverse perspectives enriched the quality and depth of deliberations and improved understanding of multiple interests," said Mary Griffin, Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. "It is great that we have come to a consensus that will help to move the restoration effort forward."

Committee members evaluated the recommendations based on the following priorities: enhancement of public access to and awareness of the river; financial and technical feasibility; flood protection; preservation of the vitality and character of the adjacent businesses, neighborhoods, and landscapes; protection of human health and safety; respect for the river's industrial and natural history; and restoration of the river ecosystem.

Members of the committee are: Baker Square Condo Association, Cedar Grove Civic Association, Citizens for the Preservation of Readville, Columbine Cliffs Neighborhood Association, Dorchester Environmental Health Coalition, Dorchester Historical Society, East River Street Neighborhood Association, Fairmont Hill Neighborhood Association, Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, Lower Mills Civic Association, Lower Mills Merchants Association, Massachuset-Ponkapoag Tribal Council, Massachusetts Striped Bass Association, Mattapan Cultural Arts Development, Mattapan Civic Improvement Association, Mattapan Community Development Corporation, Milton Conservation Commission, Milton Hill Neighborhood Association, Milton Yacht Club, Neponset River Watershed Association, Port Norfolk Civic Association, Port Norfolk Yacht Club and Quincy Environmental Network.

The DFG is responsible for promoting the enjoyment and conservation of the Commonwealth's natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land preservation and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and game species, and enforcement of the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. 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 lakes and ponds.