The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced on January 27, 2014, that final funds have been secured to protect 12 acres of coastal open space and restore over 55 acres of tidal wetlands by reconstructing the Route 28 crossing of Muddy Creek between Harwich and Chatham, Massachusetts.
The Service awarded a $1 million National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grant to the Massachusetts Department of Fish & 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 5 open-space parcels adjacent to Muddy Creek
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.
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 2 undersized culverts with a 94’ 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 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 5 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.