For Immediate Release - June 22, 2011

Patrick-Murray Administration, Federal Partners Announce Allocation of Natural Resources Damage Funds in New Bedford Harbor Case

Final $6.6 Million Proposal for New Bedford, Buzzards Bay Area Supports Six Projects

BOSTON - June 22, 2011 - Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. today announced that state and federal natural resource trustees have agreed upon an allocation for the fourth and final round of funding for natural resource restoration projects in the New Bedford Harbor area. The funds derive from the natural resource damage (NRD) settlement for injuries to natural resources caused by hazardous materials released to New Bedford Harbor several decades ago. New Bedford Harbor, previously designated as a federal Superfund site, is still the subject of ongoing remediation efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

From the 1940s to the 1970s, electrical parts manufacturers discharged wastes containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and toxic metals into New Bedford Harbor, resulting in high levels of contamination throughout the waters, sediments and ecosystem of the harbor and parts of Buzzards Bay. Hundreds of acres of marine sediment were highly contaminated - including one location containing the highest concentrations of PCBs ever documented in a marine environment.

The final funding allocation of nearly $6.6 million announced today effectively rounds out more than $20 million for projects in affected New Bedford Harbor and Buzzards Bay area communities disbursed over 17 years as a result of a settlement achieved through the NRD process. Under federal and state law, NRD settlement funds must be used for projects to restore, replace, or acquire the equivalent of the injured natural resources. The objective of these projects is to restore the natural resources that were lost, injured or destroyed by the contamination.

The New Bedford Harbor Trustee Council - comprised of federal and state trustee representatives from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) - announced the allocation of nearly $6.6 million from the NRD settlement to fund six projects along the South Coast.

The six selected projects for the final round of funding are:

  • $2.9 million for the Acushnet River upland riparian walkway in New Bedford;
  • $100,000 for ecological restoration of Palmer's Island in New Bedford;
  • $1,197,493 for the ecological restoration of the Acushnet Sawmill property in Acushnet;
  • $600,000 for the 46.6-acre LaPalme Farm purchase and restoration in Acushnet;
  • $1.3 million to jump start the restoration of the Round Hill Marsh in Dartmouth; and
  • $485,440 to continue work on three Buzzards Bay islands to provide protection and restoration of common and roseate terns, rare species which were severely impacted by the original release of hazardous substances and continue to be at risk.

"The restoration and acquisition of natural resources in and around the New Bedford Harbor area is an important part of ensuring that South Coast communities continue to thrive," said Secretary Sullivan, who serves as the Commonwealth's NRD Trustee. "These important projects enhance the natural resources available to the local community and redress significant ecological harm due to decades of chemical pollution."

"This last round of funding represents a significant milestone in the restoration of New Bedford Harbor," said John Catena, Northeast Regional Supervisor for NOAA's Restoration Center. "We have now completed the allocation of the New Bedford Harbor settlement funds and we are eager to continue working with our partners in the region to improve the natural resources of the harbor environment over the coming years."

USFWS New England Field Office Supervisor Tom Chapman added, "We look forward to working with the community to ensure the success of restoration efforts and to bring wildlife and people back to the harbor area."

All funding is subject to the federal grants process administered by NOAA. Pending NOAA's approval of revised applications for cooperative agreements regarding the projects, the Trustee Council will request the U.S. District Court to approve release of the funds from the NRD Trust account established for the New Bedford Harbor NRD settlement.

The current funding allocations build upon earlier restoration efforts also funded by the NRD settlement, including preservation of 646 acres of habitat along the Acushnet River and Sconticut Neck, enhancement of 18.5 acres of salt marsh, transplanting four acres of eelgrass habitat for fish and shellfish, removal of obsolete dams, and installation of fish ladders on the Acushnet River to restore access and passage for river herring and other migratory species into 200 acres and four miles of spawning habitat. Previous NRD settlement funds were also used for projects such as refurbishing a fishing pier, construction of other facilities in Taber Park, the construction of Riverside Park, and several years of quahog (hard clam) restoration.

"This funding keeps us on the road to recovery from decades of toxic pollution, and together we need to keep working so New Bedford Harbor can return to its former glory," said US Sen. John Kerry.

"These important grants will help restore New Bedford Harbor and ensure that it will be enjoyed by future generations," said US Rep. Barney Frank. "I will continue to work with my colleagues to speed up the federal clean up of the harbor, and to support similar shore side projects that will allow the community to better fully utilize the Acushnet River and Buzzards Bay."

"State and federal trustees have worked closely with local officials and stakeholders to strike a balance between the needs of the damaged ecosystem and those of the people," said Commissioner Kenneth L. Kimmell of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, which represents EEA on the Trustee Council. "The new projects provide significant benefits to fish and wildlife, open space and recreational opportunities for people, and will continue to make a long-term positive impact for the communities in and around New Bedford Harbor."

"The original intent of the $20.2 million settlement was to restore the natural resources severely impacted by the gross negligence of those industrial users that released PCBs and other toxic chemicals into New Bedford Harbor," said Senator Mark Montigny. "It is important that the final award of $6.6 million is directed to those South Coast communities that suffered the greatest amount of contamination. I am happy to have worked with state officials, the Mayor's office, the New Bedford Harbor Trustees Council, Buzzards Bay Coalition and others in the interest of environmental equity."

"It's great to see what city and state officials and advocates can achieve when we work together for the same goals," said Rep. Antonio Cabral. "These projects will make a positive impact on both our environment and the city of New Bedford."

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