The Mystic River Watershed Association continues to protect and restore our watershed – for the benefit of both the people and wildlife that call the Mystic their home. See the highlights from 2018.
Making Room for the River
Ten—the number of founding municipalities that launched the Resilient Mystic Collaborative this past September. The group is charged with planning for climate change at the watershed level and making sure our communities are resilient and healthy in the face of what is to come. First off the mark: a letter signed by all 21 mayors and town managers asking for $5 million from the State Environmental Bond to make the Amelia Earhart Dam, the 1960s-era barrier separating the saltwater, tidal Mystic from the freshwater portion, more flood resistant. Designed to have four pumps, the dam currently has only three pumps operating and another will certainly be needed to deal with the more intense rainfall events predicted for the future.
EDUCATING YOUTH USING OUR River as a Living laboratory
Testing water quality, creating models that demonstrate how natural systems clean water, counting herring at the Mystic Lakes Dam—these are just some of the activities area students were able to take part in this past year. In 2018 we worked with 11 schools and eight youth-serving organizations to host 34 educational sessions in the classroom and along the Mystic—thereby engaging 550 students from eight communities. Through these efforts we are providing high quality, hands-on opportunities in nature to both enrich learning and inspire youth to become lifelong watershed stewards.
BRINGING DOLLARS TO THE mystic
A 2006 oil spill in the lower Mystic resulted in a significant financial settlement to benefit local restoration. A majority of those funds have been spent outside our watershed. MyRWA and GreenRoots successfully fought for the final $1.25M to be spent on restoration in the Mystic where the damages occurred. Our work is not done though, for 2019 we will submit a comprehensive restoration plan to ensure that these funds are used on local restoration projects.
CONNECTING 25 MILES FROM THE MYSTIC LAKES TO BOSTON HARBOR
In 2018 we added Charlestown to the growing list of communities where we are working to improve connectivity and access along the Mystic. While there are currently many gaps in the path network, Charlestown has the potential to unite the Mystic River Greenway with the Boston Harborwalk. Look for two projects coming this year that will begin the transformation of this area: the Encore Boston Harborwalk in Everett and the Draw 7 Extension/MBTA Bus Yard path in Somerville/Boston. Further upstream, a new boardwalk and wetland area for flood storage will open at Wellington Park along Mill Brook in Arlington (Summer 2019). In case you missed it, the path from Route 16 (Medford) to Blessing of the Bay Boathouse Park (Somerville) was recently restored and repaved. Walk or run this new section at our Herring Run and Paddle Race held every year in May!
TACKLING STORMWATER: A THREAT TO CLEAN WATER
The Mystic River and the Mystic Lakes continue to enjoy cleaner water than ever. Despite this good news, there is growing concern with stormwater pollution due to the high percentage of impervious surface (parking lots, roads, rooftops) in our watershed. We launched a Stormwater Education Collaborative with 13 area municipalities to help cities and towns educate their community about pollution and how to prevent it. We are also partnering with municipalities throughout our watershed to implement improvements—like the two new bioswales recently built in Arlington, which are now filtering rain instead of allowing it to flow directly into our storm drains and then untreated into our river.
Goals and Strategies
I. Restore water quality and healthy habitat
Clean water is key to a healthy watershed and a diverse and robust river ecology. By providing accurate information about existing conditions and a defined way forward toward improvement, MyRWA will ensure local and regional resources are applied effectively to eliminate pollution sources and to restore healthy water chemistry and natural habitat.
Ii. Protect public health
Urban waterways may be contaminated and can pose a health risk to people who use them. By gathering, analyzing, and reporting data on bacteria and other contaminants, MyRWA aims to inform the public of risks and to find and stop the sources of pollution.
Iii. Connect people to the mystic
MyRWA will engage people in the life of the river to encourage them to realize the river’s value and to become more informed and inspired environmental advocates and stewards.
IV. Increase climate resilience
To address the challenges of climate change in New England, MyRWA will work with partners to examine precipitation, flooding, drought and temperature scenarios, risks to ecosystem services, people and property and opportunities for building resilience into the watershed.
V. Build organizational capacity
In order for MyRWA to continue to strengthen its influence and impact, the organization will develop a sustainable and diversified revenue stream and will build staff and Board capacity.