Old Town Creek, photo: Coastal Trails Coalition

Old Town Creek, photo: Coastal Trails Coalition

The newsletter of the Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game reports that after 6 years of planning, permitting, and fundraising, construction is now underway at Town Creek Marsh, 4 miles upstream from the mouth of the Merrimack River in Salisbury, Massachusetts.

The project, expected to be completed this spring, will replace the existing culvert with 2 larger culverts using modern tide-control gates.

Town Creek is a tidal creek that enters the Merrimack River just west of the US Route 1 highway bridge crossing the Merrimack between Salisbury and Newburyport. The creek drains a large area of former salt marsh north of the river, as well as adjacent uplands. The main stem of Town Creek and the Town Creek salt marsh are crossed by an abandoned rail bed and US Route 1 (Bridge Road). As a replacement for the original bridge over the creek, a granite culvert with a wooden flap-style tide gate was installed in the rail bed in the late 1800s to help protect upstream areas against flooding from the Merrimack River and from storm tides. The tide gate also prevented salt water from entering upstream tidal wetlands, resulting in severe impairment of these coastal habitats.

Major floods in 2005, 2006, and 2007 overtopped the rail bed, flooded out several businesses and closed Route 1 for days. In response, the town of Salisbury partnered with state and federal agencies and local businesses to develop a habitat-restoration and flood-mitigation project for the Town Creek system.

The project, expected to be completed this spring, will replace the existing culvert with 2 larger culverts using modern tide-control gates. The project will reduce the risk of flooding to upstream properties by improving the town’s ability to manage water levels within the system. The design will also enhance tidal flushing to 55 acres of the estuary, improving water quality and habitat conditions for many important species of fish, birds and other wildlife.

 

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