NWF Awarded $2.9 Million Grant to Restore Massachusetts' Great Marsh

National Wildlife Federation and partners to lead post-Sandy coastal wetland restoration effort

06-17-2014 // Aislinn Maestas

Piping PloverThe future of New England’s largest contiguous estuarine system is more certain today thanks to a $2.9 million restoration grant awarded to the National Wildlife Federation. The Department of Interior funded grant will enable the Great Marsh Resiliency Partnership, a coalition of conservation groups and federal, state and local agencies, to protect coastal communities along the North Shore of Massachusetts from storms and flooding by strengthening the resiliency of the ecological systems upon which those communities depend.

“The Great Marsh is the coastal jewel of the Northeast,” said Chris Hilke, Manager of the Climate Adaptation Program at National Wildlife Federation’s Northeast Regional Center. “The Marsh provides critical habitat for a multitude of fish and wildlife while simultaneously helping to reduce the risk from coastal storms, flooding and erosion to at least eight coastal and inland communities. Sadly, this priceless and irreplaceable ecosystem has been rapidly degrading for more than forty years.”

“With this grant and a tremendous coalition of local partners, we will be able to take make a significant step towards restoring the Great Marsh to health so it can continue to serve both the people and wildlife of the North Shore,” said Peter Phippen, Coastal Coordinator for MassBays National Estuary Program / Merrimack Valley Planning Commission.

The $2.9 million grant will fund five separate projects aimed at increasing the resiliency of the Great Marsh. National Wildlife Federation is spearheading the project in conjunction with the Great Marsh Resiliency Partnership, which includes local conservation groups, regional planning entities, state and federal agencies, local communities, and two existing regional environmental coalitions working to protect the Great Marsh. Major partners include the Merrimac Valley Planning Commission/ MassBays Estuary Program, Ipswich River Watershed Association, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, and the University of New Hampshire’s Jackson Estuarine Laboratory. 

Together, these groups will undertake the following projects:

  • Dune nourishment and native vegetation planting
  • Native habitat restoration through invasive species removal
  • Hydrological barrier assessment and prioritization
  • Hydrodynamic and sediment transport modeling, and
  • Coastal community resilience planning

“Hurricane Sandy showed us that our coastal communities are ill-equipped to handle severe storms and flooding,” said Hilke. “With climate change expected to bring more of these mega-storms to our shores, it is imperative we do everything we can now to bolster our natural defenses for the future.”

The federal grant is part of a $100 million Department of Interior effort to “reduce communities’ vulnerability to the growing risks from coastal storms, sea level rise, flooding, erosion and associated threats through strengthening natural ecosystems that also benefit fish and wildlife.” The funds will be administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

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