For Immediate Release - June 09, 2010

Patrick-Murray Administration Announces Completion of 33-acre Salt Marsh Restoration Project in Newbury

Project part of larger effort to enhance habitat in New England's largest salt marsh

BOSTON - June 9, 2010 - In keeping with Governor Deval Patrick's support for habitat conservation, Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin today announced the completion of a 33-acre salt marsh restoration project in the North Shore's Great Marsh.

"Salt marshes are some of the most ecologically rich ecosystems on the planet and this project helps to protect this valuable natural resource," said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles.

Salt marsh restoration projects protect commercial and recreational fisheries, help to stop the spread of invasive species and conserve wildlife habitat. Salt marshes protect against coastal storm surges and provide natural flood mitigation and water purification.

The Newman Road Salt Marsh Restoration Project in Newbury was funded by a $1 million federal grant secured by the Essex County Greenbelt Association and the DFG's Division of Ecological Restoration from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). The NAWCA program provides matching grants that support public-private partnerships involving long-term protection, restoration, and/or enhancement of wetlands and associated upland habitats for the benefit of migratory waterfowl. The grant provided $600,000 to protect a 70-acre coastal property in Essex and $400,000 to replace an undersized culvert under Newman Road.

"The Great Marsh is a major shellfish and fin fish nursery and is a globally important foraging and resting area for migrating birds along the Atlantic flyway," said Commissioner Griffin. "Projects such as this are essential to restoring habitat values of the Great Marsh and other vital estuarine resources throughout the Commonwealth."

The project involved the replacement of an undersized culvert under Newman Road with a new 6-foot-by-12-foot box culvert. Tides now freely flow into and out of the salt marsh adjacent to the Trustees of Reservations' Old Town Hill Reservation - something that has not happened in more than a century.

"This project is a terrific testament to the power of partnership to protect critical Great Marsh resources," said Ed Becker, Essex County Greenbelt executive director. "By linking Greenbelt's Essex conservation easement purchase with the restoration of the salt marsh adjacent to Newman Road, we were able to craft a successful grant proposal that was competitive with projects from across the country."

A $20,000 investment from the Commonwealth helped complete the $490,000 project. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), through their partnership with the Gulf of Maine Council on the Environment and through a Restore America's Estuaries Partnership Grant with the Conservation Law Foundation, contributed $70,000. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, via the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, contributed $400,000 to the project

"Healthy salt marshes perform some of the most important functions in the natural world. They keep our water clean, support local economies and provide habitat for countless wildlife species," said John Catena, Northeast regional supervisor at the NOAA Restoration Center.

The 20,000-acre Great Marsh is the largest continuous stretch of Salt Marsh in New England, extending from Cape Ann to New Hampshire. The Merrimack, Parker and Ipswich Rivers all drain to the marsh at Plum Island Sound. Massachusetts municipalities within the Great Marsh include Gloucester, Essex, Ipswich, Rowley, Newbury, Newburyport, Salisbury and the New Hampshire communities of Seabrook, Hampton Falls and Hampton. Many species of fish, insects, shellfish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals make their home in the Great Marsh. Rare bird species found in the marsh include American bittern, northern harrier, peregrine falcon, short-eared owl, and common and least terns. River herring, striped bass, blue fish and American eels also live in the marsh.

"Healthy and resilient salt marshes protect against the impacts of coastal storms and sea-level rise, providing a critical buffer to our homes, roads and infrastructure," said Deerin Babb-Brott, EEA Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Coastal Zone Management.

Nationwide, vast areas of salt marsh have been degraded and destroyed by filling, dredging and restriction of tidal flow. The North Shore's Great Marsh has escaped much of this destruction, but has been affected by polluted runoff, invasive species, and road and rail crossings that restrict tidal flows to upstream marshes.

"The Great Marsh is ingrained in the history of Newbury whether you shellfish, fish, hunt, cut salt hay or simply enjoy the incredible views across the marsh," said Newbury Selectman Geoff Walker. "The marsh is a part of Newbury and keeping it healthy is critically important and would be impossible without the hard work of our coastal partnerships."

This project is the culmination of a partnership between the town of Newbury and numerous project contributors, including DFG's Division of Ecological Restoration, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, NOAA's Restoration Center, the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, the Conservation Law Foundation, The Trustees of Reservations, Essex County Greenbelt Association, Environmental Resources Management through the Massachusetts Corporate Wetland Restoration Partnership, and EEA's Office of Coastal Zone Management.