U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Meagan Racey, 413-253-8558
MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Amy Mahler, 617-626-1129
Final funds have been secured to protect 12 acres of coastal open space and restore over 55 acres of tidal wetlands by re-constructing the Route 28 crossing of Muddy Creek between Harwich and Chatham, Massachusetts, today announced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service).
Last Thursday, the Service awarded a $1 million National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grant to the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (DER). Combined with other partner contributions and $3.4 million of Hurricane Sandy Mitigation and Resiliency funding announced by the Service last October, this grant will allow the restoration project to proceed through final design and construction.
Partner match contributions will provide additional funding for the project, which will not only restore coastal wetlands, but will also permanently protect five open space parcels adjacent to Muddy Creek.
“As we continue losing a dramatic amount of coastal wetlands each year, conserving and restoring areas like Muddy Creek becomes even more urgent, not only for the many fish and wildlife that depend on these extraordinary ecosystems, but also for water quality and coastal wetland resilience to rising sea levels,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber.
“Ecological restoration projects provide many benefits to communities across the Commonwealth,” said Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan. “In addition to restoring important wetland habitats at Muddy Creek and creating jobs for the local economy, this project will also help the communities of Harwich and Chatham save several million dollars in future capital project costs.”
A recent economic analysis commissioned by DER found that projected water quality improvements resulting from the Muddy Creek project will save Chatham and Harwich an estimated $3.9 million in wastewater infrastructure costs over the next 30 years.
“Our Division of Ecological Restoration works very closely with the Service to restore and protect wetlands, rivers and other natural areas across the Commonwealth,” said Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin. “With this award for Muddy Creek, the National Coastal Wetland Conservation Grant Program has now contributed to the protection of 1,775 acres and the restoration of over 277 acres of degraded wetlands in Massachusetts. We greatly value this long-term partnership with the Service that produces on-the-ground restoration and conservation results.”
The Division of Ecological Restoration will work with the Service, towns of Harwich and Chatham, Pleasant Bay Alliance, and other partners to restore tidal flow in the creek by replacing two undersized culverts with a 94-foot bridge. The existing culverts impede fish passage and separate the creek from the main basin of Pleasant Bay, a 9,000-acre tidal estuary that flows into the Atlantic Ocean and is designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This tidal restriction has resulted in impaired water quality and allowed invasive vegetation to take over some of the wetlands.
The bridge will restore the creek’s natural tidal flow that existed prior to construction of a road across the channel around 1900. Additionally, it will allow small, non-motorized boats access to the Muddy Creek estuary that has been unavailable for over 100 years.
"The Muddy Creek Restoration Bridge Project follows more than a decade of careful study by the towns of Chatham and Harwich, along with state and regional partners,” said Robert Duncanson, Director of Health and the Environment, Town of Chatham. “By restoring tidal flow in the Creek, the bridge offers unmatched potential to improve overall ecological health, water quality, and protect the long-term sustainability of coastal wetlands. The towns are grateful to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for helping to bring this critical project a step closer to fruition."
The Muddy Creek project will improve water quality and the health of the salt marsh and other coastal wetlands, shellfish habitat and wildlife habitat, benefitting species including hard shell clam, American eel, alewife, blue crab, white perch, American black duck, and common eider, as well as species at the base of the food web, including mummichog and Atlantic silverside fish.
The Chatham Conservation Foundation will donate conservation easements on the five parcels to the Town of Harwich and Harwich Conservation Trust, which will ensure long-term protection of habitat for species including the state-listed eastern box turtle and state-threatened diamondback terrapin.
The Service administers the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, which, under provisions of the 1990 Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, is funded by Sport Fish Restoration Act revenue – money generated from an excise tax on fishing equipment, motorboats and small engine fuels.
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.
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. DER was created in 2009 with the merger of the Riverways and Wetlands Restoration Programs.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.
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