For Immediate Release - August 26, 2010

Patrick-Murray Administration Marks Completion of Salt Marsh Restoration in Somerset

BOSTON - August 26, 2010 - In keeping with the Patrick-Murray Administration's commitment to environmental stewardship, the Department of Fish and Game's (DFG) Division of Ecological Restoration, in partnership with the town of Somerset, has completed restoration of 11 acres of salt marsh off of Labor-in-Vain Brook, a tributary of the Taunton River. The restoration project was completed with the recent replacement of an undersized, failing culvert.

"Protecting our coastal habitat by supporting projects like this one ensures that Massachusetts' wetlands, tidal rivers and estuaries continue to thrive," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary (EEA) Ian Bowles, whose office includes DFG.

This marsh restoration will help protect coastal fish and plant habitat, as salt marshes typically provide habitat for juvenile fish of a variety of commercial and recreational fisheries.

In the mid 1900s, the Somerset Marsh was fragmented from the main marsh adjacent to Labor-in-Vain Brook when a parking lot was constructed on the wetland. A 24-inch culvert was installed through the parking lot to maintain drainage, but was insufficient to allow for natural tidal flow. The result has been that the invasive plant Phragmites australis, or common reed, has taken over half of the remaining wetland.

During the restoration, the old culvert was replaced with a four foot-by-four foot culvert set one foot below grade to create a "fish friendly" natural channel bottom. The project also included the creation of 70 feet of restored tidal channel by removing portions of the parking lot at either end of the new culvert and a tide control berm to prevent flooding to adjacent homes.

"Phragmites can destroy the ecological integrity of salt marshes by out-competing native grasses and other salt marsh plants," said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin. "One of the most cost effective ways of controlling their spread is to restore natural tidal flow - that, in turn, supports a diversity of fish and wildlife species."

Funded by federal, state, municipal and private dollars, the total project cost, including design and construction, was $235,000.

"The project construction went well - the project actually cost less than originally estimated and there are reports of American eels and other fish already using the new culvert," said Dennis Lutrell, Somerset Town Administrator.

Project partners included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, EEA's Office of Coastal Zone Management, Save the Bay (Narragansett), the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the FishAmerica Foundation, the Dominion Foundation, Massachusetts Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership and the Lloyd Center for the Environment.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pleased to support the town of Somerset and the Commonwealth in making this restoration project a success," said Eric Derleth, Partners for Fish and Wildlife program coordinator for Massachusetts. "Improved tidal exchange will benefit several species of migratory birds that are dependent on healthy salt marshes."

"The Dominion Foundation was proud to support this project, Dominion has been a long-time member of the Massachusetts Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership and is committed to assisting partners restore wetland and waterways throughout the Commonwealth," said Paula Hamel, Environmental Policy Manager of Dominion Energy New England.

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, 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.