Watershed Association Receives Grant for Estuary Project

February 2013 – We are proud to announce that the Watershed Association has been awarded a grant of $7,500 from the Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program (MBP) Research and Planning Grant Program for estuarine protection and restoration. The grant will help fund a project to gather together existent data on Neponset Estuary water quality and assess how best to move forward to further clean-up the Estuary.

Read the press release.

More on the Neponset Estuary Project

For more than a decade, the Watershed Association has conducted a volunteer-based water quality monitoring effort aimed at identifying and reducing sources of pollution contributing to violations of surface water quality standards in the freshwater portion of the Neponset River. This program has helped to identify, characterize and eliminate dozens of discharges. It also has been instrumental in providing data that illustrate the need for further restorative efforts in the watershed.

Because the MWRA funds most of the lab work for this program, and MWRA collects water quality samples in the Neponset Estuary, the Watershed Association’s monitoring program has never addressed the Estuary.

Water quality data from the MWRA have shown that the Estuary experiences more frequent violations of primary contact recreation water quality standards than presently experienced on either the Lower Charles or Lower Mystic Rivers. MWRA data also show that whereas the Charles River has experienced large declines in pathogen concentrations, and the Mystic River has experienced modest declines, pathogen concentrations in the Neponset have remained essentially unchanged.

Besides the problems associated with bacterial pollution in the Estuary, there has been no comprehensive review of the degree to which pollutants such as nutrients, PCBs, and turbidity are degrading the Estuary and preventing the growth of healthy salt marsh, eel grass beds, and shellfish beds.

The ultimate goal of our Neponset Estuary project is to facilitate attainment of primary contact recreation standards and implementation of habitat restoration efforts in the Neponset River Estuary Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).

Immediate project objectives are to:

  • Consolidate available data,
  • Develop an action plan for improving water quality in the Estuary,
  • Build the capacity of the Watershed Association to play a more effective role in achieving the long-term goal,
  • Cultivate more active collaboration among the institutions with a direct interest in water quality in the Estuary.

Steps we will take toward achieving our goal:

  • Meet with parties who have developed their own data sets and research programs related to water quality in the Estuary to understand what data they have, what data they will collect in the future, and what interest they have in collaborating on future efforts to restore primary contact recreation in the Estuary. Such parties include: MWRA, UMass-Boston, Boston Water and Sewer Commission, Town of Milton, City of Quincy – including the Quincy Beaches Commission, etc.
  • Assemble existing data sets related to water quality in the Estuary from various institutions, including ambient water quality sampling, outfall sampling data, and stormwater infrastructure information.
  • Review and analyze the existing data to determine whether it adequately identifies and characterizes sources of pollution impacting the Estuary, and whether it provides an adequate basis for developing and implementing plans to achieve the desired project goal.
  • Prepare a draft Water Quality Action Plan for the Estuary that summarizes the available data sets, recommends remediation strategies that can be taken in light of the available data, and, where needed, recommends coordinated efforts for future data collection needs.
  • Confer with the participating institutions to discuss the draft Water Quality Action Plan and explore opportunities for cross-institution-collaboration in implementing water quality enhancement activities.
  • Prepare the final Action Plan.

All tasks in the proposed scope of services will be carried out by Watershed Association staff over the course of 2013.

Once completed, this project will allow for better prioritization of restoration efforts throughout the Estuary. The project will help to support ongoing efforts by BWSC, Town of Milton, and City of Quincy to plan and prioritize IDDE (Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination) and green infrastructure programs. The project also will help with planning for future habitat restoration projects in which water quality is a significant limiting factor, such as eel grass bed restoration, shellfish enhancement, rainbow smelt habitat enhancement, and salt marsh rehabilitation.

The project also will help to build the capacity of the Watershed Association to begin to more meaningfully address longstanding water quality impairments in the Estuary. It will help to determine whether additional pollution control initiatives can be justified based on available data, and what additional or different data need to be collected, if any, to support necessary management activities. Lastly, the project will serve to cultivate stronger partnerships among the key institutions that have longstanding research and/or operational interest in the health of the Estuary. These partnerships are likely to generate new, more effective approaches to reducing pollutant loading in the Estuary.

The final report will be made available to all project partners as well as to the public and other interested parties, on-line. The availability of the report and a synopsis of its conclusions will be more widely publicized through our website, newsletter, and press releases.

For more information, contact NepRWA Executive Director, Ian Cooke at 781-575=0354 x305 or cooke@neponset.org.

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