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Mass. organizations receive $4 million for coastal resilience projects

Contractor Geoff Wilson of Northeast Wetland Restoration examines the progress of work he had done in two days before in the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.  (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Contractor Geoff Wilson of Northeast Wetland Restoration examines the progress of work he had done in two days before in the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Three Massachusetts organizations will receive more than $4 million for projects to restore salt marshes and increase coastal resilience. The grants, from the public-private National Coastal Resilience Fund, were announced Tuesday as part of more than $136 million for 88 projects nationwide, including 12 in New England.

Established in 2018, the Fund invests in conservation projects that restore or expand natural features — such as marshes, wetlands, and oyster reefs — which minimize the impacts of storms and flooding. This is the second round of grants awarded in 2022.

In Massachusetts, Ducks Unlimited, along with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, will receive just under $4 million to restore 1,600 acres of the North Shore's Great Salt Marsh, and create plans to restore thousands more acres.

"I think this will be huge for the local communities that are surrounding the protected area," said Nancy Pau, a wildlife biologist at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, which forms part of the Great Marsh. Pau says the marsh and dunes protect nearby towns like Newburyport and Ipswich; keeping the marsh healthy could help the towns avoid flooding — and costly flood protection — as sea levels rise with climate change.

Massachusetts has about 45,000 acres of salt marsh, which provide wildlife habitat, buffer coastal infrastructure from storm surge, and store tons of carbon in dense peaty soil. The state has lost about 41% of its salt marsh since 1777, mostly due to human intervention that interrupted the natural tidal flow.

Geoff Wilson and Nancy Pau look over some of the previous work they have accomplished in the Parker River Wildlife Refuge. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Geoff Wilson and Nancy Pau look over some of the previous work they have accomplished in the Parker River Wildlife Refuge. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Pau and partners at Mass Audubon, the Trustees of Reservations, Greenbelt and other organizations have been working for years to restore salt marshes.  She says the grants will allow them to continue and expand the work.

"So far we've restored maybe 500 acres... and it was a lot of hard work over many, many years," Pau said. "Now that we've figured out how to do it, we are scaling up."

In addition to the Great Salt Marsh restoration project, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod will receive $279,000 to complete design plans for the restoration of Weir Creek.

This year’s awards, administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, include $93.7 million provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Additional federal agency funding comes the Department of Defense. Private funding comes from the petrochemical companies Occidental and Shell USA, the insurance company TransRe, and the Bezos Earth Fund.

Related:

Barbara Moran Twitter Correspondent, Climate and Environment
Barbara Moran is a correspondent on WBUR’s environmental team.

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