State awards grants for environmental projects

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BOSTON (WWLP)– The Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) has awarded $4 million in grants to support climate change adaptation and ecological restoration projects.

DER is awarding $2,750,000 in funding to 26 municipalities through the Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grants Program, supporting culvert replacement projects that improve river health and municipal roads in communities across the Commonwealth. They also will provide $1,252,000 in state and federal grant funds to support six DER Priority Ecological Restoration Projects to remove aging dams, rejuvenate historic wetlands, and restore floodplain habitat and flood storage. 

DER’s Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant Program helps municipalities replace undersized and deteriorating culverts with crossings that meet improved design standards for fish and wildlife passage, river health, and storm resiliency. The grants also help municipalities deal with the ever-growing cost of aging road infrastructure.

Funding these projects is part of Governor Baker’s plan to use part of the state’s direct federal aid from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support key priorities including housing and homeownership, economic development and local downtowns, job training and workforce development, health care, and infrastructure. 

Nearly half of Massachusetts’ estimated 25,000+ small bridges and culverts act as barriers to fish and wildlife because they are undersized or poorly positioned. Undersized culverts can also present a serious risk to public safety. As high intensity rainfall becomes more frequent and severe due to climate change, culvert bottlenecks can cause flood waters to overtop roads, resulting in washouts, road closures, and impacts to other important infrastructure. Installing culverts that meet the Massachusetts Stream Crossing Standards allows rivers to flow unrestricted and with lower risk of flood damage. Recent studies have found that culverts designed to meet these standards are often less expensive than in‐kind culvert replacements over the lifespan of the structure.

The following projects were awarded grants through the Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant Program:

Agawam – $61,643 – TheTown of Agawam will conduct field data collection and analyses as well as preliminary engineering tasks for a culvert replacement on May Hollow Brook, a cold water fisheries stream. As part of a Massachusetts Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Action Grant, a Stormwater Master Plan identified this culvert as the highest priority for replacement. Upgrading this severely deteriorated culvert will improve stream and wildlife habitat connectivity and improve public safety by reducing the risk of failure and protecting critical utility infrastructure.

Attleboro – $49,270- The City of Attleboro will conduct final engineering and permitting for a culvert replacement on Chartley Brook. Upgrading the culvert will improve public safety by reducing the risk of failure in storm events and will improve passage for native fish and wildlife.  

Becket – $75,165 – The Town of Becket will conduct final engineering and permitting for a culvert replacement located on Center Pond Brook. Upgrading this perched and undersized culvert will enhance public safety and resiliency and restore wildlife connectivity.

Belchertown – $92,000 – The Town of Belchertown will conduct field data collection as well as design and engineering for a culvert replacement project located on Hop Brook. As part of a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Action Grant, a town-wide road-stream crossing assessment identified this culvert as a top priority for replacement.  Upgrading this culvert will provide a more resilient structure that can better accommodate future climate conditions and precipitation events.

Buckland – $88,700 – The Town of Buckland will conduct field data collection and analysis, design and engineering, and permitting for the replacement of a culvert on Taylor Brook. Upgrading this failing culvert will eliminate the risk of collapse and slope failure, protecting critical infrastructure on this vital access route and improving wildlife passage.  

Colrain – $95,500 – The Town of Colrain will conduct field data collection and analysis, design and engineering, and permitting for the replacement of a culvert on a tributary to Taylor Brook. Upgrading this failing and undersized culvert will protect infrastructure and improve storm resiliency and passage for wildlife.  

Cummington – $88,282 – The Town of Cummington will complete final engineering and permitting tasks for the culvert replacement on the North Branch of the Swift River. Upgrading the culvert will enhance public safety, resiliency, and ecological conditions and maintain economic connectivity. The North Branch of the Swift River is a tributary to the Wild & Scenic Westfield River, a coldwater stream that provides critical habitat for fish. 

Dartmouth – $37,185 – The Town of Dartmouth will conduct field data collection and analysis for a culvert replacement on a tributary to the Slocums River. Upgrading this culvert will reduce maintenance costs, increase climate resiliency, and improve wildlife connectivity between upstream resources and the Dartmoor Wildlife Management Area.

East Bridgewater – $27,985 – The Town of East Bridgewater will conduct final engineering and permitting for the replacement of a culvert on the Satucket River. Upgrading this deteriorating culvert will provide increased resilience and maintain essential public utilities, as well as provide suitable passage for anadromous fish.

Essex – $83,500 – The Town of Essex will conduct final engineering and permitting for the replacement of a culvert on a tributary to the Essex River. This is a particularly important access route during coastal flooding events. Upgrading this culvert will improve public safety and fish and wildlife passage.   

Gardner – $123,400 – The Town of Gardnerwill conduct field data collection as well as design and engineering for a culvert replacement on Wilder Brook. This culvert was identified as a Top Priority Hazard in Gardner’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Plan. Upgrading this culvert will create connectivity for aquatic habitat while providing public safety and increased resiliency.

Hadley – $67,682 – The Town of Hadleywill conduct field data collection as well as design and engineering for a culvert replacement on a tributary to the Fort River. Replacement of this failed structure will reduce the town’s maintenance costs, eliminate further slope erosion, and improve fish and wildlife passage.

Hampden – $34,040 – The Town of Hampden will conduct field data collection and analysis as well as preliminary engineering for the replacement of a bridge on East Brook. Hampden’s Hazard Mitigation Plan identifies the replacement of this bridge with a flood resilient structure as a top priority. This project will help protect important infrastructure and improve access for emergency and medical services.

Heath – $100,000 – The Town of Heath will conduct field data collection as well as design and engineering for a culvert replacement on Avery Brook. Upgrading this culvert will improve infrastructure and storm resilience, reduce maintenance costs, and improve passage for fish and wildlife.

Leyden – $395,000 – The Town of Leyden will replace a severely undersized culvert on Glenn Brook with a bridge. The culvert currently runs under Coates Road, which is the sole access route for residential dwellings in this area, and the new bridge will improve resiliency, safety, and ecological conditions. 

Merrimac – $26,028 – The Town of Merrimac will conduct final engineering and permitting for the replacement of a culvert on Cobbler Brook. Replacement of this culvert will improve public safety by providing a more resilient structure. Cobbler Brook is identified as a coldwater fishery and recognized as an important wildlife corridor in the Merrimac Open Space Plan.

Middlefield – $70,000 – The Town of Middlefield will conduct field data collection, analysis and design, and engineering for a culvert replacement on Glendale Brook. The upper reaches of Glendale Brook are some of the most pristine coldwater fisheries in the Commonwealth. Upgrading this culvert will allow coldwater species to access critical coldwater streams, which is particularly important as the climate warms and stream temperatures increase.

Montague – $25,000 – The Town of Montague will complete field data collection and analysis for the culvert replacement on a tributary to the Sawmill River. Upgrading this perched and undersized culvert will benefit public safety and resiliency by improving the local flooding conditions in this area as well as providing fish and wildlife passage. 

Orange – $25,000 – The Town of Orange will conduct field data collection and analysis for the replacement of a culvert on a tributary to the Swift River. The culvert runs under Fairman Road, which is the sole access route to several residential homes and businesses. Upgrading this undersized culvert will provide critical public safety benefits, a more resilient structure, and improve passage for aquatic species.

Pepperell – $373,000 – The Town of Pepperell will replace the failing Heald Street culvert on Sucker Brook, which will complement the Sucker Brook Restoration Priority Project that is focused downstream. Upgrading this culvert will protect infrastructure and improve passage for native brook trout, rare and endangered mussels, and other aquatic species.

Plymouth – $100,000 – The Town of Plymouth will conduct field data collection as well as design and engineering for a culvert replacement project on a tributary to Beaver Dam Brook. Replacing this deteriorating structure will eliminate public safety hazards and allow for the addition of sidewalk passage. This project complements DER’s restoration project at the adjacent Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary by improving river herring passage to Fresh Pond.

Southwick – $80,000 – The Town of Southwick will conduct field data collection and analysis, design and engineering, and permitting for the replacement of a culvert on Shurtleff Brook. This culvert replacement project will improve stream connectivity by providing wildlife passage, and improve resiliency against climate change with better management of flooding conditions.  

Topsfield – $367,000 – The Town of Topsfield will replace undersized culverts at the outlet of Hood Pond on a tributary to Pye Brook. The new culvert replacement structure will alleviate flooding conditions at this location while providing passage for fish species to spawning habitat in Hood Pond, which is also an important component of the Ipswich River Connectivity Project. 

Westborough – $57,500 – The Town of Westborough will conduct field data collection and analysis for multiple culverts at the Upton Road and Morse Street intersection on Jackstraw Brook. This waterway is identified as a Coldwater Fish Resource, Outstanding Resource Water, and one of the major streams that flow to the Cedar Swamp Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). Upgrading these culverts will improve ecological conditions by reconnecting fish and wildlife passage and will benefit the community by reducing flood risk and improving climate resiliency.

Whately – $57,120 – The Town of Whatley will conduct field data collection and analysis as well as design and engineering for the replacement of a culvert on Great Swamp Brook. Upgrading the culvert will improve infrastructure resilience for a nearby retail area and improve ecological conditions. This culvert has been identified as a top 10% Coldwater Stream Crossing for replacement by the Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool.

Windsor – $150,000 – The Town of Windsor will replace an undersized and deteriorated culvert on a tributary to the East Branch of the Westfield River, which provides some of the best coldwater fish communities in the Commonwealth. This project is part of a larger River Road paving project which includes the replacement of multiple culverts along the road. Upgrading this culvert will increase public safety, storm resiliency, and ecological benefits.

The Priority Projects Program is one of the vehicles by which DER pursues restoration projects that present the greatest benefit to the Commonwealth ecologically, socially, and economically. The six newly funded Priority Projects include wetland restoration, dam removal, and cranberry bog restoration projects which restore healthy habitat while also helping communities prevent storm damage, address aging infrastructure, and improve outdoor recreation. Once completed, these Priority Projects will provide significant social, environmental, and economic benefits to the Commonwealth and local communities. There are currently 47 active ecological restoration projects throughout the state designated as Priority Projects. To review a full list of projects, please visit the Department of Fish & Game’s DER Priority Projects Map webpage.

The following six projects were awarded funds through DER’s Priority Projects Program via a combination of DER’s Capital Budget and federal grant funds:

Herring River Estuary Restoration Project

Award: Friends of Herring River, $500,000 (state)

The award will continue DER’s investment in the design, permitting, and preparation for construction of the Herring River Estuary Restoration Project in Wellfleet and Truro. When complete, this project will restore natural tidal flow to approximately six miles of waterways and up to 1,000 acres of severely degraded estuarine habitats. The project will also improve Wellfleet Harbor water quality, enhance migratory fish access to hundreds of acres of spawning ponds, restore a significant area of shellfish habitat, and increase coastal resilience to the effects of climate change and sea level rise.

Manhan Meadows Restoration Project

Award: MassAudubon, $72,000 (state)

The award will support Phase 2 of the Manhan Meadows Restoration Project, an effort to restore approximately 15 acres of former agricultural field and current grassland habitat and floodplain forest within a portion of MassAudubon’s Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary known as Manhan Meadows. This project will ultimately establish an increasingly rare natural community type in Massachusetts and in doing so, re-establish floodplain processes and succession, create habitat for several rare plant and animal species, and improve adjacent grassland habitat. 

Marsh Island Restoration Project

Award: Buzzards Bay Coalition, $85,000 (Natural Resources Damages/Trust)

The award supports the Marsh Island Salt Marsh Restoration Project, which represents the single largest opportunity to restore historically-degraded coastal wetlands and habitat for marine species that were injured by past contamination in the New Bedford Harbor environment. Through the removal of fill, reconstructing the tidal creek system, and planting native marsh species, the project will restore 12 acres of previously-filled salt marsh within a larger 22-acre property along New Bedford Harbor, improving hydrology and water quality, enhancing fish and wildlife habitat, and providing opportunities for the public to access the shoreline and restored marsh for passive recreational activities. The funding for this award comes from the New Bedford Harbor Trustees Council Natural Resources Damages Trust Fund.

Monatiquot/Fore River Restoration Project

Award: Town of Braintree, $500,000 (state)

The award will support the Monatiquot River Restoration Project, which includes the removal of the “High Hazard” Armstrong Dam and the non-jurisdictional Ames Pond Dam. The project will open 36 river miles, strengthen community resilience, improve water quality, and restore natural river processes.

Stuart Bogs Wetland Restoration Project

Award: Buzzards Bay Coalition, $40,000 (state)

The award supports the Stuart Bogs Wetland Restoration Project in Rochester, a DER Provisional Project that involves protection of approximately 240-acres, including historic wetlands now part of an active cranberry farm. Once protected, approximately 60-acres of retired farmland will be restored to historic wetland conditions and integrated within the broader landscape. This funding will support efforts to acquire the property for permanently protected, public open space, and set the stage for restoration design, permitting, and implementation in the years ahead.

Sucker Brook Restoration Project

Award: Town of Pepperell Conservation Commission, $55,000 (state)

The award will support the construction phase of the Sucker Brook Restoration Project, which will remove a dam and replace a culvert to connect a fragmented section of Sucker Brook to the Nissitissit River. This project will provide fish passage for critical species, restore sediment transport downstream, and help eliminate an impoundment that results in increased water temperatures impacting the coldwater fishery resource.


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