On December 12, 2018 the Mystic River Watershed Association's Executive Director, Patrick Herron, traveled to Washington, D.C. with Roseann Bongiovanni, Executive Director of GreenRoots, in a concerted effort to bring restoration dollars back to our watershed. MyRWA and GreenRoots succeeded in presenting a compelling argument. The punchline: The NAWCA Council agreed to structure a new opportunity to encourage $1.3 million in funding for restoration projects in the Mystic in 2019.
In January of 2006, approximately 15,200 gallons of petroleum product was spilled into the Lower Mystic River through an ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. terminal located in Everett. Accordingly, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) charged ExxonMobil with violating the Clean Water Act through negligence at the facility. ExxonMobil signed a plea agreement in 2009 that included a fine, the cost of cleanup, and a community service payment (CSP) that ultimately totaled $1 million to the Massachusetts Environmental Trust and $4.6 million to the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) fund. This plea agreement states that the funds should be used exclusively for qualified coastal wetland restoration projects in Massachusetts, with preference to projects within the Mystic River watershed. During plea proceedings, the NAWCA Council and U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff assured the U.S. Attorney's office and Judge Saris that a process would be put in place to ensure the CSP funds would be awarded in a manner consistent to the intent of the plea agreement.
All funds managed by the Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET) were immediately put to work on stewardship and water quality improvements in the Mystic River watershed. In contrast, no NAWCA funds have come to the Mystic River watershed. To date, $3 million of the ExxonMobil CSP given to NAWCA have been spent on projects in the Buzzards Bay area and Great Marsh in Ipswich. The NAWCA Council was considering spending the remainder of the money ($1.36 million) on yet another project not in the Mystic. This would bring the amount spent on the Mystic to ZERO.
Prior to attending the meeting, David Barlow, Gene Benson and friends at GreenRoots and Conservation Law Foundation developed and submitted formal comment letters to the Council that outlined the history of these funds and the context for preference for the Mystic.
“This is an opportunity to repair part of the Mystic River watershed by directing funds that resulted from the spill back to the area where the spill occurred,” said Patrick Herron, Executive Director. “We are excited that our Mystic communities have another shot at this funding.”