Cape Communities Receive River & Wetland Restoration Grants

COURTESY OF THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE: The Parkers River Bridge in Yarmouth.

BOSTON – Several local communities will receive state and federal grant funding for river and wetland restoration and climate adaptation projects.

More than $2.5 million has been awarded to Falmouth, Wellfleet/Truro, Yarmouth and Plymouth.

The projects are now designated as Priority Projects through the Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration, making them eligible for technical services, including data collection, engineering, design work, permitting, project management and grants.

“Dam removal, culvert replacement, and other nature-based approaches are a key part of our administration’s approach to building resiliency preparing for climate change,” said Governor Charlie Baker.  

“We are proud to help communities complete on-the-ground projects that improve public safety and restore habitat for fish and wildlife.”

The project details and funding amounts are listed below.

Coonamessett River Restoration, Falmouth

Award: Town of Falmouth – $360,000 (Federal)

This grant supports construction to restore the Coonamessett River and replace a deteriorated road-stream crossing on a town-owned road in Falmouth.  The Town of Falmouth, DER, conservation organizations, and state and federal agencies are working together to restore the lower Coonamessett River in Falmouth, Massachusetts.  The Coonamessett River, one of the largest rivers on Cape Cod, once harbored a significant herring run and is a high-priority watershed for diadromous fish restoration. This grant will support the removal of the “Middle Dam” and installation of an additional pedestrian boardwalk/river crossing in its place, replace the failing culvert carrying John Parker Road over the Coonamessett River, and restore an additional 39 acres of former cranberry bogs to natural wetlands and improved access for river herring to 158 acres of spawning habitat.  Construction will start in the summer of 2019.  DER will be providing the Town $360,000 awarded to DER from United States D.O.I. Fish and Wildlife Service Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief funding.

Foothills Preserve / West Beaver Dam Brook Restoration Project, Plymouth

Award: Town of Plymouth – $75,000 (State)

This grant supports wetland restoration across 42 acres of retired cranberry farmland owned by the Town of Plymouth and 5 acres of downstream degraded floodplain owned by Mass Audubon as part of the Foothills Preserve and West Beaver Dam Brook Restoration Project.  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 sub-watershed to the ocean. Once 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.  This grant leverages federal funding for project implementation totaling approximately $1,400,000, secured from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. 

Herring River Estuary Restoration Project, Wellfleet / Truro

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

This grant will restore tidal flow to approximately 6 miles of waterways and up to 1,000 acres of degraded salt marsh and estuarine habitats as part of the Herring River Estuary Restoration Project.  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. Restoration will be achieved primarily through reconstruction of the main Chequessett Neck Road dike at the river mouth in Wellfleet and construction of two secondary upstream dikes that will allow controlled, incremental restoration of tidal flow to the estuary while protecting low-lying roads and other structures from flooding.

Parkers River Tidal Restoration, Yarmouth

Award: Town of Yarmouth – $ 1,600,000 (Federal)

This grant will support a large coastal wetland complex (153 acres of estuary, salt pond, and salt marsh), fish runs for river herring and American eel, and important nursery habitat for winter flounder.  For nearly a decade, The Town of Yarmouth has been working with local, state, and federal partners to eliminate a severe tidalrestriction on the Parkers River, by replacing a degraded and undersized state bridgeon Route 28, a primary transportation corridor on Cape Cod.  The project will consist of a 30-ft wide bridge span which will restore more natural tidal hydrology to the Parkers River estuary. The project will also eliminate a velocity barrier to migratoryfish passage, improve water quality, and enhance protection from coastal storms and storm surges.  DER is supporting this important infrastructure, habitat and coastal resiliency project through a project implementation sub-grant of $1,600,000 in funding from U.S. D.O.I., Fish and Wildlife Service Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief funds.

Plymouth and Barnstable State Senator Vinny deMacedo said he is grateful to the Governor and his administration for the grants to support ecological restoration projects in his district.

“The Jones River, Coonamessett River, and the Foothills Preserve are important historical and natural resources to their communities. These waterways and wetlands nourished the initial growth of our communities, and with the Administration’s continued partnership they will flourish to be enjoyed and appreciated for generations to come,” deMacedo said.

State Representative David Vieira (R-Falmouth) was also pleased with the commitment to the Coonamessett River Restoration Project.

“Today’s funding announcement will go a long way to ensure river flow and fish passage under public roadways and allow expanded public access to this historic and natural resource,” Vieira said.

“The Cape used to be home to millions of herring that would swim upstream every spring to spawn. Over the years, man-made dams and construction choked off these critical habitats leading to a precipitous decline in fish stocks,” said State Representative Dylan Fernandes (D- Falmouth). “The Coonamessett River project restores this critical habitat and will give new life to the river and all of the wildlife that depends on it.” 

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.
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