Water quality improvement projects in lower Mystic River get grant funding

June 11, 2010
BOSTON, MA, June 11, 2010 -- In Massachusetts, $1 million in grants has been awarded to four projects aimed at improving conditions in the lower Mystic River...

BOSTON, MA, June 11, 2010 -- Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles today announced $1 million in grants for four projects aimed at improving conditions in the lower Mystic River. Serving the communities of Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford and Somerville, these projects will improve water quality and wetland areas of the lower Mystic River.

"Revitalizing the Mystic River will benefit residents living in more than 20 communities, and is a part of Governor Patrick's ongoing support for water quality improvement projects across the Commonwealth," said Secretary Bowles.

The grants were funded by the Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET). Under a settlement agreement with the United States, ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. paid $1 million to the trust as a community service payment. In October 2009, MET awarded $508,500 of that total in grants to municipalities and non-profit organizations to improve public access to the Lower Mystic River, with the goal of drawing more people to the waterfront and increasing advocacy for the river's restoration and protection. Today's round of grants will further the Patrick-Murray Administration's goal of improving river conditions for wildlife and people.

The Mystic River flows through 22 cities and towns, including some of the most densely populated urban communities in Massachusetts. The lower Mystic River has a long history of industrial use and suffers from high levels of bacterial, nutrient and chemical contamination.

The MET was established in 1988 and is governed by a nine-member Board of Trustees appointed by the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The board is currently chaired by James R. Gomes, Director of Clark University's Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise.

"Urban waterways play an important role in the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of people in the Commonwealth," said Gomes. "These investments will bring many more people to the water and enhance the quality of life in the communities that make up the Mystic Watershed."

"This investment is part of a watershed restoration initiative that Governor Patrick and Secretary Bowles supported from the beginning," said Arleen O'Donnell, chair of the Mystic River Working Group. "Thanks to their leadership, our initial investment has leveraged private funding and court settlement funds for this important environmental project."

Since its creation as part of the Boston Harbor cleanup, the Trust has awarded over $18 million in grants to municipalities and non-profit organizations for environmental education, research and stewardship activities statewide. Grant funding comes through two sources: environmental enforcement actions such as this, and sales of MET's three environmentally themed license plates, which together generate close to $1 million annually for the trust.

"This grant is a big boost for our efforts to be more responsible stewards of our environment," said Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash. "We remain especially appreciative of the work of Secretary Bowles for personally working with our partnership to advance our goals for the Mystic to the benefit of the entire commonwealth."

"The environmental well-being of the Mystic River is essential to Somerville," said Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. "For too long, the river has been cut off from the rest of the city by highways and heavy industry. With the impending Assembly on the Mystic project, we'll see increased parkland as well as boating and fishing, and the last thing we need is to see the Mystic choked off by weeds. This money from the state and the hard work of the people at Groundwork Somerville will ensure the river continues to be a vital recreational resource for our community."

"We are truly excited about the attention the Patrick Administration is showing towards the Mystic River Watershed communities" said Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn. "In improving water quality, our goal is to bring people back to the river that has been ignored for years. It is vital not only the river, but for the whole economic base in our region. This new round of grant funding will dramatically boost the efforts by the cities of Malden, Medford and Everett to improve the water quality in the rediscovered Malden River," said Malden Mayor Richard C. Howard.

Today's grant awardees:

Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) - $350,000
The CRWA, with the city of Chelsea and the Mystic River Watershed Collaborative, will construct and monitor two stormwater improvement projects in the Chelsea Creek sub-watershed. A series of tree box filters will be incorporated into a reconstruction of Chester Avenue and a network of rain gardens will be constructed to control runoff at the Mace Apartments. These stormwater management applications will reduce strain on municipal stormwater systems by enhancing natural infiltration processes and will remove many pollutants from stormwater runoff before water enters the river.

Groundwork Somerville - $150,000
Groundwork Somerville will engage local youths in its green jobs training program and AmeriCorps volunteers to remove invasive water chestnut from the Mystic River, opening up 10 acres of water for boating and wildlife. Water chestnut is an aggressive aquatic plant that impairs navigation and chokes out many native species in the river. This is the beginning of a long-term effort to control these weeds, the seeds of which can remain viable for 5-12 years at the bottom of the river. Left unchecked, this species can decrease light, dissolved oxygen levels in the river, and reduce food sources for native species. Dense stands of the plant also foul boat propellers and impede small craft.

Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) - $325,000
The MyRWA will implement an integrated water quality monitoring and improvement program in the Lower Mystic River Watershed. The monitoring program will play an important scientific role in documenting water quality issues (bacteria, nutrients, chemicals) and inform watershed stakeholders on how to reduce pollution inputs and improve water quality. The grant will support and expand upon two existing MyRWA programs, "Find-it and Fix-it" and Baseline Monitoring, and extend the monitoring work to address harmful algal blooms, nutrient loading and the impacts of large storms.

Mystic Valley Development Commission - $175,000
The Mystic Valley Development Commission is the local coordinator of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to restore the Malden River ecosystem to the highest quality that it can reasonably support and sustain. The project includes efforts to remove invasive species and root matter along 14.9 acres of river bank; create 5.4 acres of emergent wetland within the existing oxbow; place 4,400 cubic yards of sand/gravel to create 2.8 acres of fish spawning habitat; remove and dispose of debris within the proposed construction area; and study operational changes at the Amelia Earhart Dam to improve fish passage. This grant will be matched by $325,000 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


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