Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration in Massachusetts


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A presentation about aquatic ecosystem restoration in Massachusetts. Presented by Tim Purinton, director of the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, during the Buzzards Bay Coalition's 2012 Decision Makers Workshop series. Learn more at

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Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration in Massachusetts

  1. 1. Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration in Massachusetts Tim Purinton, Director, Mass Division of Ecological Restoration
  2. 2. Department of Fish and Game Mary Griffin, Commissioner
  3. 3. Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) • Physical Restoration – Freshwater and Salt Water • Flow Restoration – RIFLS, Dam Management, Comprehensive Water Planning • Technical Assistance (Riverways Program) – Adopt-A-Stream, Wild & Scenic Rivers, Water Quality, etc. The mission of the Division of Ecological Restoration is to restore and protect the Commonwealth’s rivers, wetlands and watersheds for the benefit of people and the environment.
  4. 4. Aquatic Habitat Restoration …activities that assist in the recovery of the natural processes of a aquatic ecosystem that have been • degraded, • altered or • destroyed. Such activities will: • restore natural processes, • remove ecosystem stressors, • increase resilience of the ecosystem, & • create no lasting harm. “Ecological restoration is an intentional activity that initiates or accelerates the recovery of an ecosystem with respect to its health, integrity and sustainability.”
  5. 5. Problems • One-third of wetlands lost to filling and alteration • Thousands of acres of coastal marshes are impacted by road and rail crossings that block flow of ocean tides or impede fish and wildlife passage • A growing number of rivers and streams are impacted by low flow (and surcharge) • Urban sprawl and development pose a continued and growing threat to river and wetland health • Over 3,000 dams fragment and degrade our rivers and an estimated 30,000 culverts exist in the Commonwealth • Climate change
  6. 6. Restoration Solutions • Replacing culverts to restore full tidal passage and natural hydrology • Fill removal and stream daylighting • Removal of dams, dikes, and other barriers • Reduce and remove stormwater pollutants • Water conservation measures (including reducing irrigation and creating riparian buffers) • Invasive species control
  7. 7. Barriers and Fragmentation • 43 are flood control dams • 44 licensed hydropower dams • 164 water supply dams (not all in use)
  8. 8. Dam Removal
  9. 9. Culvert Replacement
  10. 10. Tidal Exchange
  11. 11. Habitat Complexity
  12. 12. Floodplain Restoration
  13. 13. Flow Restoration
  14. 14. Massachusetts Restoration Examples • North Hoosic River – Clarksburg (dam removal in a cold water stream in Western Mass) Partners: MassDER, Trout Unlimited, Town of Clarksburg, NRCS, USFWS, American Rivers, Sweet Water Trust, Hoosic River Watershed Association, Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, Cascade School Supplies • Bronson Brook – Worthington (culvert modification and replacement, woody debris installation) Partners: Town of Worthington, DFW, NRCS, USFWS, American Rivers, NOAA, Westfield Wild and Scenic Committee, The Nature Conservancy, Connecticut River Watershed Association • Eel River - Plymouth (removal of series of water control structures, a dam, stream naturalization and Atlantic white cedar swamp) Partners: MassDER, Town of Plymouth, USFWS, NRCS, American Rivers, TNC, MassDEP, CWRPHorsley Witten Group
  15. 15. Briggsville Dam RemovalClarksburg
  16. 16. North Hoosic River
  17. 17. 16’ tall
  18. 18. Briggsville Dam Removal Funding • • • • Design: $171,000 Implementation: $385,000 Oversight & monitoring: $52,000 Partner in-kind ~ $5,000 • Total: $613,000
  19. 19.
  20. 20. Bronson Brook -Worthington
  21. 21. Bronson Brook -Worthington
  22. 22. Bronson Brook -Worthington
  23. 23. Eel River Headwaters Restoration Plymouth
  24. 24. Eel River
  25. 25. Eel River • Wetland acres restored: 40 acres – seven bog cells • Culvert replacements: 2 road crossings • Barriers removed: 6 including the Sawmill Dam • Miles of stream restored: 2 miles (from headwaters spring to Sawmill Dam) • Total project area, bogs and dam inclusive: Approximately 60 acres • Number of Atlantic white cedar trees planted: 17,000 • Number of other trees, shrubs, and herbs planted: 7,000 • Scale of earthwork: Approximately 30,000 cubic yards • Pieces of large wood used to construct in-stream habitat: Approximately 1000 • Construction Cost: $ 1.9 million • Funders: Multiple: Local, State, Federal and Private • Years to Design, Permit, Fundraise and Complete: 4 • Job Creation/ Maintenance: 2-4 Engineers, Consultants, and Surveyors (part-time), 5-8 Construction Contractors (part-time)
  26. 26. Eel River
  27. 27. Eel River
  28. 28. Eel River Headwater Restoration Before After
  29. 29. Climate Change Changes in average summer heat index, a measure of how hot it actually feels, given temperature and humidity Confronting climate change in the U.S. Northeast • Massachusetts, Union of Concerned Scientists
  30. 30. Aquatic Ecosystem Impacts & Vulnerabilities • Changes in water depths, flow dynamics • Alteration of banks and floodplains • Increase water temp – change in wetland & animal species • Drying of peat soils resulting in release of stored carbon • Proliferation of invasives
  31. 31. Climate Change Adaptation • Restoration is a core, no-regrets strategy to assist with adaptation • Restoration builds resiliency • Healthy wetlands sequester carbon • Barrier removal creates access to refugia, reduces water temperatures
  32. 32. Key Elements of Holistic Restoration • Focus on ecological processes • Movement of water, sediment, organic matter, nutrients/chemicals, light/heat, and biota • Not ‘form’ or single/target species focus • Work on the appropriate scale • Watershed focus • Consider regional controls, and reach-level processes, conditions, and stressors • Temporal considerations • Coordination and synergy • Focus existing efforts • Coordination, not just co-location
  33. 33. “Mother Nature & Father Time” (Bill Mitsch) • Establish basic conditions for recovery • Resist over engineering and excessive manipulation • Communicate that restoration is a trajectory rather than instantaneous success • Monitor, evaluate and mange adaptively
  34. 34. Economic Argument • Restoration leverages funding and attracts millions of competitive federal dollars annually into the Massachusetts economy. • Implementation projects produce an average employment demand of 12.5 jobs and $1,750,000 in total economic output from each $1 million spent, contributing to a growing “restoration economy” in Massachusetts. • Ecological restoration projects help support a number of economic sectors, including design & engineering, construction, wholesale construction materials, nursery products, & non‐profit science. • Because of this diversity of contributing sectors and the non‐export nature of the projects, the “ripple effects” from a dollar spent on ecological restoration travel widely through the Massachusetts economy. • Restoration projects generate total economic outputs equal to or greater than other types of capital projects such as road and bridge construction and repair, replacement of water infrastructure, etc.
  35. 35. Regulation Reform Ecological Restoration Projects Non-Ecological Restoration Projects
  36. 36. End Photo Credit: Doug Kerr (617) 626-1542