For Immediate Release - October 30, 2009

State Environmental Officials, the Town of Plymouth, and Conservation Community Celebrate Partnership to Restore Former Cranberry Bogs in Plymouth

Patrick-Murray Administration announces first-in-the-nation program to take a holistic approach to aquatic habitat restoration

PLYMOUTH - Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin joined local, state and federal officials to kick off construction of the Eel River Headwaters Restoration Project , which will restore 40 acres of former cranberry bogs to a variety of native wetland types, including an Atlantic white cedar swamp and nearly 2 miles of cold water riverine habitat. Secretary Bowles also announced that the Riverways and Wetland Restoration programs at DFG and EEA's Office of Coastal Zone Management have merged to create a new Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) at DFG.

"I'm pleased to announce the groundbreaking on this project, which will not only help restore 40 acres of critical wetland habitat, but also support the local economy through construction and engineering jobs," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles. "The Division of Ecological Restoration is a first-in-the-nation state program established to holistically address aquatic habitat restoration. The Division will position Massachusetts to take advantage of significant federal resources dedicated for habitat restoration."

DER has more than 70 habitat restoration projects in design, permitting and construction, including more than 20 dam removal and river restoration projects and 50 coastal wetland restoration projects.

"The Eel River restoration effort is a signature project for DFG's Division of Ecological Restoration that will greatly improve the natural habitat for an incredible array of native fish and wildlife species, including both rare and more common species," said Mary Griffin, Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. "This project is truly a team effort, and I would like to thank the Town of Plymouth and all the federal, state and non-profit partners whose support is absolutely critical to its success."

"This site is a perfect example of why environmental conservation and restoration is so important," Senate President Therese Murray said. "It's not just a habitat for rare species or an area for recreational opportunities, but it is also important for the improvement of water quality in Plymouth. I'd like to congratulate everyone who worked so hard to get this project underway."

"The Eel River restoration project will benefit the community not only through job creation, but also by creating a beautiful environment for recreation and education while improving water quality and endangered species habitat." State Representative Tom Calter said. "It will serve as a wonderful conservation model for the Commonwealth."

The Eel River project, which received major grants from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), will remove the Sawmill Dam that currently blocks upstream fish passage. It will also remove a series of water control structures, replace two undersized culverts to facilitate wildlife passage, and restore the Eel River stream channel and floodplain. DER and its partners will plant more than 17,000 Atlantic white cedar trees and 7,000 native shrubs and herbs, build a new footbridge over the former dam location, and improve trails to provide better public access for walking, trout fishing, and bird watching. In addition, education components such as permanent signage will be constructed.

Project partners include: USFWS, NRCS, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), American Rivers, The Nature Conservancy, Department of Environmental Protection, Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership and Horsley Witten Group. The site contractor is SumCo Eco-contracting of Salem, Massachusetts and design services were provided by Inter-fluve, Inc.

The Eel River Watershed is a sub-basin of the South Coastal Watersheds, which consists of 14 coastal river watersheds with a total drainage area of approximately 240.7 square miles, spanning all or part of 19 municipalities. The restoration site is home to six endangered or threatened species including the Eastern Box Turtle, the Bridle Shiner, the Barrens Buckmoth, the Adder's Tongue Fern, Swamp Oats and the Northern Red Bellied Cooter.

In 2005, the town of Plymouth purchased 39.5 acres of bogs and 40 acres of upland at the headwaters of the Eel River south of Long Pond Road. The restoration site consists of 39.5 acres of abandoned cranberry bogs that were part of the Wetland Reserve Program through the Natural Resource Conservation Service. The surrounding forest, upland and bogs were later purchased by the town of Plymouth's Community Preservation Committee. The Eel River originates in this bog system in a natural spring, and ultimately flows past the historic Plimoth Plantation to Plymouth Harbor. Throughout the project site are numerous culverts and ditches that obstruct river flow. At the northern tip of the project site is the Sawmill Pond Dam, which does not provide for fish passage.

The Department of Fish and Game (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, ecological restoration activities, 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.

The mission of the Division of Ecological Restoration is to: "To restore and protect the health and integrity of the Commonwealth's rivers, wetlands and watersheds for the benefit of people, fish and wildlife."