Press Release

Press Release Baker-Polito Administration Announces Support for River Restoration and Climate Adaptation Projects

For immediate release:
  • Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
  • Department of Fish and Game
  • Division of Ecological Restoration

Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Announces Support for River Restoration and Climate Adaptation Projects

Katie Gronendyke

BOSTONThe Baker-Polito Administration today announced $188,600 in state grant funds for river and wetland restoration projects in Falmouth, Northampton/Easthampton, North Adams, and Plymouth through the Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) 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. 

“River and wetland restoration projects are vital to the Commonwealth’s efforts to combat and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Through the innovative Priority Projects program, we are proud to provide funding and technical assistance to support the efforts of cities and towns who continue to work tirelessly to preserve ecosystems across the state.”

“Our administration is committed to supporting communities and local stakeholders in their efforts to protect critical environmental and wetland habitat,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Habitat restoration projects like these also benefit local economies by creating and sustaining jobs within the construction, engineering, and nursery industries.”

The five projects help local partners remove aging dams, restore a floodplain forest, rejuvenate historic wetlands on retired cranberry bogs, revitalize an urban river and leverage $3 million in federal and private funding.  The projects will restore river habitat for river herring and eastern brook trout, wetland habitat for several rare plant and animal species, and increase municipal resilience to climate change. 

“Removal of unwanted dams, upgrading undersized culverts and restoration of floodplain and wetland habitat benefits the environment and helps communities adapt to climate change,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “We look forward to working with the communities receiving Priority Project funding to protect and restore these wetlands and rivers and increase biodiversity across the state.”

“These projects improve fish and wildlife habitat, increase resilience to severe weather events, and further protect public safety,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Ronald Amidon. “They benefit a number of fish and wildlife species throughout the Commonwealth, including eastern brook trout, river herring, and waterfowl.”

Priority Projects are evaluated by DER on their ecological benefit, feasibility, contribution to climate readiness, opportunity for public education and recreation, available program resources, and partner support. They are chosen through a statewide, competitive process. Eligible applicants include municipalities, private property owners, non-profits, and academic institutions. Selected projects are eligible to receive technical services such as data collection, engineering, design work, and permitting support. DER may also provide project management and fundraising assistance, as well as small grants.

The five Priority Project projects receiving grants are:

Coonamessett River Restoration Project, Falmouth.

Award: Town of Falmouth, $50,000

The Town of Falmouth, DER, conservation organizations, and state and federal agencies are working together to restore the Lower Coonamessett River in Falmouth. The Coonamessett River, one of the largest rivers on Cape Cod, once harbored a significant herring run.  This run was significantly degraded through a long history of agriculture and early industrial development.  This grant supports Phase 2 of the project, which includes removal of the “Middle Dam,” installation of a fish-friendly, climate resilient pedestrian boardwalk/river crossing, replacement of the culvert carrying John Parker Road over the Coonamessett River, and restoration of an additional 45 acres of retired cranberry bogs to natural wetlands.  Completion of the Coonamessett River Restoration project will result in restoration of 4600 linear feet of in-stream river habitat, 56 acres of wetland restoration in former cranberry bogs, and will provide improved access for river herring to 158 acres of spawning habitat in Coonamessett Pond. The project will also enhance public access in an important Town-owned conservation area.  This grant leverages $716,990 in federal funding from the NOAA Habitat Restoration Program and $200,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation New England Forests and Rivers Fund.

Arcadia/Manhan Meadows Floodplain Forest Restoration Project, Northampton/Easthampton

Award: Mass Audubon, $23,600

Prior to European settlement, the banks of the Connecticut River harbored expansive floodplain forest communities.  Over time, settlers and Native Americans cleared these floodplains, whose rich and stone-free alluvial soils were well suited for agriculture.  With increases in agriculture came increases in population, resulting in development pressures that generated additional loss of these forest systems.  Currently, floodplain forests represent only 0.1% of the nearly 3,000,000 hectare Connecticut River watershed.  Much of this acreage is developed, contains agricultural easements or consists of wetland communities, leaving little opportunity for restoration.  However, MassAudubon is working with DER to restore 15-acres of existing grassland (former agricultural fields), and return it to a high-terrace floodplain forest community. 

This project, located within MassAudubon’s Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, will ultimately establish an increasingly rare natural community type in Massachusetts, and in doing so, will re-establish floodplain processes and succession, create habitat for several rare plant and animal species, and improve adjacent grassland habitat.  Funding from DER will assist with development of design and permitting documents.

Hoosic River Flood Chute Naturalization Project, North Adams

Award: Hoosic River Revival, $25,000

The City of North Adams, Hoosic River Revival, Hoosic River Watershed Association, and state and federal agencies are working together to re-naturalize and revitalize the North and South Branches of the Hoosic River as the rivers flow through North Adams. The project will improve public safety, reduce annual operating and maintenance costs while improving habitat, access, connectivity and climate resilience. This phase of the project includes the design and permitting of a flood management system within North Adams to replace the existing 2.5 mile concrete chute system, an aging structure that has outlived its design life.  The Hoosic River, one of the few remaining mainstem cold water fishery resources in the Commonwealth, supports a viable wild brook trout population on both branches of the Hoosic River upstream of the city. The funding will be used to build local capacity to advance the project, negotiation for land-sharing of the Phase 1 project area and community outreach around the goals of the project. The grant is matched 2:1 through private funders.

Foothills Preserve / West Beaver Dam Brook Restoration Project, Plymouth 

Award: Town of Plymouth, $50,000

The Foothills Preserve and West Beaver Dam Brook Restoration Project involves comprehensive wetland restoration across 42 acres of retired cranberry farmland owned by the Town of Plymouth and five acres of downstream degraded floodplain owned by Mass Audubon.  A total of six small dams will be removed as part of the project to restore free flowing conditions along 1.27 miles of stream channel, and reconnect this subwatershed to the ocean.   When complete, the site will be transformed into a mosaic of natural habitat types within protected public open space, including open water, marsh, fen, forested wetland, restored coastal stream, and sand plain grassland. Funding from DER will support the final design, permitting, and bid phases of the project. Additional funding for this work totaling $100,000 has been provided by project partners Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wetlands Conservation Act.  Other project partners include Mass Audubon, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Living Observatory.  The project is being led by DER’s new Cranberry Bog Program, which helps landowners restore aquatic habitats on retired cranberry farmland to benefit local communities, fish, and wildlife.  

Holmes Dam Removal & Newfield Street Bridge Replacement, Town River Restoration Project

Award: Town of Plymouth, $40,000

Town Brook is a 1.5-mile stream that originates at the 269-acre Billington Sea and flows into historic Plymouth Harbor.  The Holmes Dam is a 16 foot high concrete dam that the Massachusetts Office of Dam Safety lists as “High” hazard. Removal of the Holmes Dam will restore and enhance self-sustaining populations of migratory fish, eliminate a potential public hazard, and enhance significant social and recreational benefits through the project’s additions to the Town Brook Greenway and the Pilgrim Trail.  DER funding will support project construction which is being managed by the Town of Plymouth.  Dam removal and bridge replacement activities are underway and expected to be complete in 2019This grant leverages funds from two federal partners: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Habitat Restoration Center ($1,500,000) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish and Wildlife Partners Program ($55,000).

“Thank you to the Baker-Polito Administration for your continuing work to support our community’s efforts to restore our waterways,” said State Senator Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth). “These grants will not only assist with the restoration of these rivers, but preserve important natural habitats and make these beautiful natural areas more accessible to residents.”

“The restoration of the Coonamessett River brings renewed life to one of the most significant rivers in all of Barnstable County,” said State Representative Dylan Fernandes (D-Falmouth). “The project is a terrific example of the benefits of state and local collaboration and the funding for phase 2 supports critical climate resiliency and habitat rehabilitation needs.” 

“I am proud to have worked with my colleagues in the Baker-Polito Administration in securing this valuable grant funding for the Arcadia/Manhan Meadows Floodplain Forest Restoration Project in Easthampton," said State Senator Don Humason (R-Westfield).   “This funding will assist the Department of Energy Resources and Mass Audubon as they continue their important work protecting and preserving Massachusetts’ natural resources and wildlife.”

“I’d like to thank Governor Baker, Secretary Beaton, DFG Commissioner Amidon, and DER Director Lambert for their continued commitment to the Coonamessett River Restoration project.  As a child, I have fond memories of waking up on Spring mornings at my grandparents’ home in Hatchville and hearing the loud calls of Seagulls as if we were at the beach itself.  My grandfather and I would hop into his yellow pickup truck and drive down to the Coonamessett River to watch the herring by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, making their way up the river and through the lower bog dam.  Back then we could even fish for them.  Over the years, that has changed.  This investment will help restore necessary wetland vegetation to improve the health of the river so the herring can return in greater numbers, and also provide safe public access so our children and grandchildren can learn about the river and develop what Aldo Leopold coined as a ‘Land Ethic’.  For that which they learn to love, they will work to protect,” said State Representative David T. Vieira (R-East Falmouth).

“I am always grateful when I see that such important environmental projects, like this one, get the funding they need,” said State Representative John Scibak (D-South Hadley). “This grant will provide funding for the design and development of an incredible project to restore 15 acres of farmland into a budding habitat for increasing rare local animals and plant species.”


Media Contact for Baker-Polito Administration Announces Support for River Restoration and Climate Adaptation Projects

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs 

EEA seeks to protect, preserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s environmental resources while ensuring a clean energy future for the state’s residents. Through the stewardship of open space, protection of environmental resources, and enhancement of clean energy, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs works tirelessly to make Massachusetts a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family.

Department of Fish and Game 

The Department of Fish and Game works to preserve the state's natural resources. We exercise responsibility over the Commonwealth's marine and freshwater fisheries, wildlife species, plants, and natural communities, as well as the habitats that support them.

Division of Ecological Restoration 

DER restores and protects rivers, wetlands, and watersheds in Massachusetts for the benefit of people and the environment.