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Boston — The Baker-Polito Administration today awarded $310,877 in grants from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET) to 10 projects which will work to protect and restore rivers, watersheds, wildlife and aquatic habitats across the Commonwealth.
“Our coasts, rivers, and wetlands make Massachusetts a beautiful place to live and visit and these grants will continue to improve these incredible natural resources,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “With the help of residents who purchase environmental license plates from the Registry of Motor Vehicles, we are proud to invest in local programs that are helping protect our precious water resources and wildlife.”
“These grants support the important work these groups do to help us steward and protect environmental resources in communities across the Commonwealth,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito “By communities and conservation partners collaborating and working together with the Commonwealth, we can maintain and protect our clean waters for generations to come.”
Since it was founded in 1988 as part of the Boston Harbor cleanup, MET has awarded more than $20 million in grants to organizations statewide that protect and enhance the state’s water resources, from supporting water projects in communities to protecting coastal habitats. Funding for this program comes from the sale of the state’s three environmentally-themed specialty license plates: the Right Whale Tail, the Leaping Brook Trout and the Blackstone Valley Mill.
“These grants will help to restore habitat, preserve endangered species, protect public health and provide excellent learning opportunities,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “I thank the over 40,000 motorists who purchased environmental license plates for making these grants possible, and I encourage everyone to consider buying one from the RMV to help us protect our important natural resources.”
The grants will help support 10 projects in Bourne, Chatham, Dartmouth, Greenfield, Groton, Harwich, Methuen, Provincetown, Sturbridge and Worcester.
The grants awarded by the Baker-Polito Administration include:
American Rivers (Sturbridge) – $38,750 was awarded to remove three consecutive dams and replace a culvert on Hamant Brook in Sturbridge. Removal of these obsolete dams will restore one mile of river to coldwater stream condition and reconnect the brook with the Quinebaug River. The project will reduce the cost and liability of dam ownership for the Town of Sturbridge and restore river habitat and water quality in a town conservation area. Additionally, the project will improve parking and access to a favorite conservation area in the town, including installation of educational and trail kiosks. This award supports the dam removal and river restoration portion of the project, which will be completed in the fall of 2016.
Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance (Chatham) – $10,000 was awarded to develop a hands-on educational experience regarding the importance of aquaculture to clean water and the feeding the community. Oysters and clams will be used as a point of entry to discuss food, ecosystem health, ecology, the marine economy, history and clean water and will create connections between the students and the marine ecosystem. Through this program, students will learn about shellfish and clean water through a hands-on field trip to the local shellfish hatchery where they will tour the facility, learn to dig a clam and taste local shellfish.
Center for Coastal Studies (Provincetown) – $36,365 was awarded to investigate the persistence of contaminants of emerging concern in oyster tissue. Cape Cod towns and Barnstable County are considering growing and harvesting shellfish as a technique to remove nitrogen in coastal waters from areas that are known to be compromised by wastewater. Shellfish from these areas need an established depuration period before harvest of these shellfish for public consumption. This effort will seek to determine how long these pollutants persist in oysters and this will inform development of an appropriate depuration period. This project will build on CCS’s research previously funded by the Massachusetts Environmental Trust which documented the presence of CECs in the coastal waters of Massachusetts and in shellfish grown in Massachusetts’ waters.
Clean River Project (Methuen) – $40,000 was awarded to remove up to 20 motor vehicles from the Merrimack River. These cars are leaching hazardous chemicals into the water that serves as the drinking source to over 300,000 Massachusetts residents. The Clean River Project has developed a system to safely remove the cars without harming the environment. The project will include the use of customized pontoon boats, a hydraulic lift, air bags, sonar and professional divers. Coordination with State Police ensures that vehicles can be identified as reported stolen or involved in investigations.
Connecticut River Watershed Council (Greenfield) –$40,512 was awarded to restore the endangered brook floater freshwater mussel to suitable water bodies in Massachusetts. The proponent will combine habitat assessments of the 4 streams with known populations and selected target restoration locations; hatchery propagation; and community involvement and education of the importance of freshwater mussel conservation. More than 50 percent of freshwater mussels known to occur in the Commonwealth are listed as endangered, threatened or special concern under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act but they provide valuable ecosystems services such as maintaining water quality through constant water filtration. Mussel propagation and reintroduction has been successful in Mid-Atlantic states but this will be the first project of its kind in New England.
Harwich Conservation Trust (Harwich) – $40,000 was awarded to support the comprehensive ecological restoration of 66 acres of former cranberry bogs and adjacent lands in the Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve. The project includes the rehabilitation of more than 0.75 miles of stream channel and associated floodplain as well as the restoration of habitat and fish passage for a number of species of migratory fish and wildlife including the American eel. The proponent will remove several water control structures associated with retired cranberry bogs, reconstruct stream channel and flood plain, re-establish wetland hydrology in former peatlands and remove barriers to fish migration at the head of tide.
Lloyd Center for the Environment (Dartmouth) –$20,000 was awarded to expand and enhance the Climate Science Learning Project (CSLP), an interactive elementary school science teaching model. This program serves low-income children and families in Greater Fall River and Greater New Bedford schools whose students would not be able to participate without external support. The program will introduce interactive, web-based learning tools to provide access to information about the effects of climate change on biodiversity.
Massachusetts Audubon Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary (Worcester) – $25,900 was awarded for educational programming related to stormwater management and the use of low-impact design stormwater installations. Recent improvements to the Board Meadow Brook Sanctuary have included many stormwater management retrofits that demonstrate that these projects can be cost-effective and attractive while removing pollutants. MassAudubon will feature the site in tours, workshops, demonstrations, and technical assistance to municipalities.
Massachusetts Maritime Academy (Bourne) - $40,000 has been awarded to continue mapping benthic habitats in Buzzards Bay. The mapping and associated ecological studies will enable the Office of Coastal Zone Management and fisheries agencies to make management decisions and better understand the ecological importance of the benthic community. This research will also engage students in “hands-on” applied marine ecology onboard the Research Vessel Liberty in Buzzards Bay and in MMA laboratory facilities.
Nashua River Watershed Association (Groton) – $19,350 was awarded to improve conditions for habitat and for recreational paddlers on the Squannacook River. The Squannacook River is designated an “Outstanding Resource Water,” and a central part of the Squannacook ACEC, is prime habitat for endangered and special species of concern, and is a premier paddling destination. No assessment of culverts has been conducted in the subwatershed and excessive woody debris - though necessary for habitat preservation - poses a safety threat to paddlers. The NRWA will assess culverts to the River and Stream Crossing Standards and help prioritize upgrades for local DPW and conservation commissions. NWRA will also facilitate the process of thoughtfully clearing woody debris obstacles in the Squannacook River with citizens, local officials and habitat experts to balance boating and habitat preservation needs.
“The Massachusetts Maritime Academy plays a vital role in the environmental health of the Commonwealth’s coasts and waterways,” said State Senator Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth). “The investment by the Baker-Polito Administration in this institution will not only protect the beauty and viability of our coasts, but it will provide valuable educational opportunities for students at Mass Maritime.”
“I am pleased that the EEA has graciously provided these grant funds to Mass Maritime, and am looking forward to seeing the Academy take advantage of this opportunity,” said State Representative Randy Hunt (R-East Sandwich). “Members of the Mass Maritime community, which includes many of my constituents, stand to benefit tremendously from this grant.”
“I'm pleased Governor Baker and Secretary Beaton continue to value Buzzards Bay as a critical natural resource in southeastern Massachusetts,” said State Representative David T. Vieira (R-East Falmouth). “This award exemplifies that, and it also reinforces the important role the Massachusetts Maritime Academy has in our region.”
“Restoring ecological systems for the protection of endangered species will provide much needed balance to our rivers and streams for those species to flourish,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “I thank the Baker Administration and Secretary Beaton for their work on this very important grant.”
“I am grateful to the administration for their commitment to the environment," said State Representative Todd Smola (R-Warren). “Governor Baker has pledged to help protect our natural resources and this grant award helps meet that pledge.”
“Congratulations to the Town of Sturbridge on being awarded these grant funds,” said State Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer). “This project will not only save the town money, but will restore important river habitats, revitalizing another great natural resource for area residents to enjoy. I want to thank Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, and Secretary Beaton for their support of this project.”
“I am happy to see money raised through the purchase of environmental license plates flowing back into western Massachusetts,” said State Representative Paul Mark (D-Peru). “I am grateful to the administration and Secretary Beaton for remembering how important a grant like this is to rivers and outdoor areas in our most rural counties.”
MET, established by the Massachusetts Legislature as a state trust in 1988, is governed by a nine-member board of trustees appointed by the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.