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Boston — The Baker-Polito Administration today announced $1,352,250 in state and federal grant funds for five river restoration projects within the City of Taunton, and the Towns of East Bridgewater, Falmouth, and Plymouth through the Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration’s (DER) Priority Projects Program. The program provides projects with grant funding, project management, and contracted technical services for wetland and river restoration, urban river revitalization, and streamflow restoration projects that present the greatest benefit to the Commonwealth, ecologically, socially, and economically.
“Our Administration continues to place a high priority on building strong relationships with our federal, municipal, non-profit, and private partners, as we seek natural solutions that improve the environment, enhance community safety, and support job creation,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Priority Projects have left their mark throughout every region of the Commonwealth, and once these projects are completed, the river systems in these communities and the ecosystems they support will be stronger and better prepared for the effects of climate change.”
“These river restoration projects will greatly improve the ecology of several river systems within the Commonwealth by reviving fisheries populations and creating important wetlands for wildlife,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “We look forward to working with the communities of East Bridgewater, Falmouth, Plymouth, and Taunton to ensure these natural resources are protected and preserved for future generations to benefit from.”
The bulk of the funds being awarded - $1,182,250 - are from federal grants awarded to DER under the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Funding Competitive Grant Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coastal Ecosystem Resiliency and Coastal & Marine Habitat Restoration Grant Programs. The remaining $170,000 are grants from state capital funds, recently approved by the Baker-Polito Administration.
“Smart investments in restoration projects sustain jobs and produce $1.75 million in total economic output from each $1 million spent,” said Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton. “These jobs in the construction, engineering, and nursery industries produce a high economic rate of return and are a critically important component of the Bay State’s growing economy.”
“Together these projects open more than 60 miles in five river systems to fish passage and create or improve many wetland areas valuable to migratory fish and wildlife,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner George N. Peterson, Jr. “Eliminating the threat of dam failure while restoring fish habitat is a win-win for our environment and the people who live in these areas.”
“If there is a silver lining to Hurricane Sandy, it is that the storm helped galvanize natural resource protection efforts around the issue of resilience,” said Rick Bennett, regional scientist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and lead for the agency’s Hurricane Sandy recovery and resilience program under the Department of the Interior. “Healthy rivers are essential to the health and livelihood of every American. They support clean drinking water, fishing and recreation. We’re excited to work with Massachusetts and states across the Northeast on river restoration efforts that will improve wildlife habitat and help communities better withstand flooding and future storms.”
“By removing old dams that no longer provide services to local communities, we restore access to valuable upstream habitats for river herring, shad, and other sea-run fish. These fish are prey for popular recreational and commercial fish, such as striped bass and cod. We appreciate the Commonwealth's continued support of these projects,” said John Bullard, regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region.
Projects receiving program funds include:
Location: Mill River Restoration, Taunton, MA
Award: The Nature Conservancy, $622,250 (Federal Grant)
Project summary: The Mill River Restoration Project brings together federal, state, and local agencies and NGOs with dam owners to remove three dams along the Mill River in Taunton and construct a fish ladder at a fourth dam. Two of the three dams have been removed, and the fish ladder has been constructed. West Britannia Dam is slated for removal in 2017. Removal of West Britannia Dam will open over 40 miles of river habitat. Federal funds for the project have been received for the project from the USFWS and NOAA Restoration Center. This grant will support the construction phase of the West Britannia Dam Removal Project.
“Support like this is critical as the Commonwealth and local communities help lead the way nationally with use of nature-based approaches to reduce the impact on people from such things as coastal storm surge and inland flooding,” said Alison Bowden, Director of Rivers, Coasts and Oceans for The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.
Location: Cotley River Restoration Project, Taunton, MA
Award: Taunton Development Corporation, $120,000 (Federal Grant)
Project summary: The Cotley River Restoration Project is being led by the Non-profit Taunton Development Corporation with technical assistance from DER, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA Fisheries. Removal of this aging dam will open 8 miles of habitat for wildlife on this tributary to the federally-designated Wild and Scenic portion of the Taunton River. Federal funds for the project have been received for the project from the USFWS and NOAA Restoration Center. This grant will support construction.
“The ecological restoration of Taunton’s rivers will aid in returning miles of natural habitats throughout the community,” said State Representative Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset). “Through these funding sources we are able to further enhance our ‘wild and scenic’ initiatives in the region.”
Location: Lower Coonamessett River Restoration Project, Falmouth, MA
Award: Town of Falmouth, $40,000 (State Grant)
Project summary: The goal of the Lower Coonamessett River Restoration Project is to remove an aging dam and restore 11 acres of former cranberry bog to natural wetland habitat. The Town of Falmouth, which owns the property, has been leading the restoration effort together with numerous organizations and agencies. This grant will contribute to the cost of engineering, design, and construction.
“I’m grateful to represent the most beautiful district in the Commonwealth, and we must do everything we can to preserve it,” said State Representative Dylan Fernandes (D-Falmouth). “The lower Coonamessett River is an important ecological site and I applaud the Baker-Polito Administrations issuance of these critical funds to my hometown of Falmouth.”
“The Town of Falmouth is extremely gratified for the continued support of both State and Federal officials in the comprehensive restoration efforts underway in the Lower Coonamessett River watershed. We are very fortunate to be working with a dedicated team of talented professionals who are collaborating in this complex restoration process. We thank our colleagues in the Office of Energy and Environment and the Department of Fish and Game for their commitment to this critical environmental project,” said Julian Suso, Falmouth Town Manager.
Location: The Satucket River Restoration Project, East Bridgewater, MA
Award: The Nature Conservancy, $530,000 (Federal Grant)
Project summary: The Satucket River Restoration Project brings together federal, state, and local agencies and NGOs with private dam owners to remove an aging dam on the Satucket River in East Bridgewater. The Carver Cotton Gin Dam is slated for removal in 2017. Removal of the dam will open over 13 miles of river habitat, restore access to 652 acres of river herring spawning habitat, and improve water quality. Federal funds for the project have been received for the project from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program and the NOAA Restoration Center. This grant will support construction.
“Water flow in our region has been a major issue affecting not only quantity and quality available for human consumption, but it also has an ecological and economic impact as well. Not only would a herring spawning area adjacent to the Cotton Gin dam benefit from the removal, but fish passage would also be restored to Robbins Pond and beyond. Efforts are already underway to revitalize and protect the herring population, which is an important component of our state's lobster industry,” said State Representative Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman). “I am pleased that the Baker-Polito Administration has included this project as part of the scope of environmental improvements to our state's ecosystem, I am excited about the long-term positive impact the removal will have, and I am grateful for the funds that had heretofore been unavailable to mitigate the free flow of the Satucket River.”
“The Town of East Bridgewater and the Board of Selectmen have been waiting many years for the cleanup and renovation in the area and we applaud all the efforts by the Project Team to complete this project. Many local residents continually express their excitement and cannot wait for the river restoration work to begin,” said David Sheedy, East Bridgewater Board of Selectmen.
Location: Town Brook Restoration Project, Plymouth, MA
Award: Town of Plymouth, $40,000 (State Grant)
Project summary: The Town Brook Restoration Project is a multi-phase effort to address all aquatic species barriers, manage contaminated sediments, improve water quality, and address public safety risks on the historic brook in downtown Plymouth. The final phase of this 12-phase project is the removal of the town-owned Holmes Dam and replacement of the again Newfield Street bridge. This grant will support construction.
“I am grateful to the Baker-Polito Administration for their continued commitment to restoring our Commonwealth’s waterways,” said State Senator Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth). “I am especially encouraged by these grants for the Lower Coonamesset River in Falmouth and Town Brook in Plymouth which will revitalize these unique natural features and be of great benefit to the Falmouth and Plymouth communities.”
“Plymouth is excited to receive these funds for use with the largest dam removal proposed along Town Brook to date and to continue the restoration of its historic herring run,” said David Gould, Plymouth Director of Marine and Environmental Affairs.
The mission of the Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) is to restore and protect the Commonwealth’s rivers, wetlands, and watersheds for the benefit of people and the environment.
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for promoting the conservation and enjoyment of the Commonwealth's natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land protection and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and wildlife species, and ecological restoration of fresh water, salt water, and terrestrial habitats. 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 rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.