Awards $471,512 in Grants from Environmentally-Themed Specialty License Plates to Restoration Projects

BOSTON – On Friday, May 3rd, the Baker-Polito Administration unveiled the Striped Bass Conservation Specialty License Plate, which will provide drivers with the opportunity to support the conservation of saltwater fisheries through the Massachusetts Environmental Trust. The announcement coincides with $471,512 in grants, funded by the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, to 18 projects across the state for the restoration and improvement of aquatic habitat, rivers and watersheds, and protection of endangered marine animals, including at-risk sea turtles and the rarest large whale, the North Atlantic right whale.

“As a dedicated angler, I am proud to announce the new Striped Bass Conservation license plate that will enable conservation and research projects to protect our marine ecosystem and improve opportunities for saltwater fishermen,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Thank you to all the Massachusetts drivers that purchase environmental specialty plates, helping to fund these important projects to preserve and protect marine wildlife and environmental resources.”

All proceeds from the purchase of Striped Bass Conservation plates will be administered by the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, and a panel of experts will establish priorities and recommend projects for funding. This panel will include representatives from the Division of Marine Fisheries, academia, environmental advocacy groups, the recreational fishing community, and the commercial fishing industry. Funds from the sale of this plate will be used to study striped bass, improve passageways for sea-run fish like river herring and eels, study angler practices to improve hook-and-release survival, and develop materials and programs to educate anglers about the importance of responsible angling strategies.

Since it was founded in 1988 as part of the Boston Harbor cleanup, the Massachusetts Environmental Trust has awarded more than $20 million in grants to organizations statewide that provide a wide array of environmental services, from supporting water projects in communities to protecting coastal habitats. Funding for this program comes from the sale of the state’s environmentally-themed specialty license plates: the Right Whale Tail, the Leaping Brook Trout, and the Blackstone Valley Mill.

The grants awarded by the Baker-Polito Administration include:

Ocean Alliance – $15,675 has been awarded to use drones to assist in the disentanglement activities to provide a non-invasive real-time assessment, reduce animal stress, and further our understanding of these events. 

University of Massachusetts Foundation, Inc. – $24,453 has been awarded for Boston Harbor Island seal surveys to document the spatial and temporal use of the Boston Harbor Islands by harbor and gray seals.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Inc. – $27,850 has been awarded to support the New England Whale Fesitval which includes interactive displays and activities to learn about the whales that live off the Massachusetts coast and the threats they are facing. 

Lobster Foundation of Massachusetts – $50,000 has been awarded to develop, test, and promote a 1,700lb “Whale Safer” red rope project that will help to reduce the risk of serious injury and mortality to right whales. 

Association to Preserve Cape Cod – $45,000 has been awarded to improve habitat for at-risk fish by providing report cards on the health of Cape Cod’s waters, and an annual State of the Waters report to improve public knowledge of water quality and guide policy and restoration. 

Berkshire Environmental Action Team – $29,218 has been awarded to use regionalized methodology to survey stormwater outfalls in dams located in Adams and North Adams.

Buzzards Bay Coalition – $50,000 has been awarded to support the design of a hydraulic model and develop the preliminary engineering design needed to obtain permits for a restoration project that will enhance aquatic connectivity of the Mattapoisett River and one of its primary tributaries. Upon completion, the project will restore valuable wetland habitat within a 200-acre conservation property that includes 57 acres of retired cranberry bogs.

Friends of Herring River Wellfleet Truro, Inc. – $2,000 has been awarded to design two improved streams crossings on the upper Herring River (Wellfleet) that currently limit estuarine habitat continuity for river herring and many other aquatic animals between Cape Cod Bay, the river main stem, and its headwater freshwater ponds.  The proposed project is complementary to the larger effort to restore tidal flow to the 1000-acre lower Herring River estuary and marshes.

Friends of Malden River – $9,805 has been awarded to develop and deploy a multifaceted project to remove litter and educate residents

Green Roots, Inc. – $29,500 has been awarded to engage Chelsea youth to collaboratively design and paint storm drain murals to raise awareness about stormwater runoff, chemical pollution prevention and dumping within the Lower Mystic River Watershed.

Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust, Inc. – $14,750 has been awarded to support anadromous fish monitoring and restoration on the Concord River in Lowell. 

Nashua River Watershed Association – $15,000 has been awarded to design stormwater management solutions for Harris Road in Ashby, where the eroding dirt road surface is causing sedimentation into an adjacent wild Brook Trout spawning area. 

Neponset River Watershed Association – $20,000 has been awarded to protect and restore Traphole Brook, an important cold-water resource, in the Neponset River Watershed. 

North & South Rivers Watershed Association – $20,000 has been awarded to complete permitting and final design for the removal of the Peterson Pond Dam in Hanover and Norwell.  The removal of this dam will open up 1.3 miles of instream habitat in the Third Herring Brook system for anadromous fish and complete the removal of three dams on the brook. 

Salem Sound 2000, Inc. – $12,261 has been awarded to incorporate the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management’s Sentinel Site protocols for new baseline data collection, and train citizen science volunteers to build monitoring capacity.

Town of Falmouth – $50,000 has been awarded to produce and install 28 interpretative signs along the Coonamessett Greenway Heritage Trail. The signs will tell the story of centuries of land use change, from a wild river with abundant diadromous fish populations harvested by the indigenous people, to blockages for industrial uses of mills from 1700 through the 1800’s and then cranberry cultivation until the early 2000’s. 

Trout Unlimited, Inc. – $23,000 has been awarded to quantify the benefits of dam removal to stream ecosystems across the Commonwealth.  Additional work will include the collection of water quality, macroinvertebrate, and fish data at more than 15 sites in Massachusetts and share results at regional and national meetings. 

Worcester Eco-Tarium – $33,000 has been awarded to assist in undertaking a detailed planning study to improve the water quality of stormwater runoff from the Eco-Tarium property, which is impacting the aquatic ecosystem and water quality of the Lower Pond on the museum property.  A planning study would describe a comprehensive strategy, to be executed in a subsequent phase, to create a nature-focused “green” solution to not only improve and protect the water quality in the Lower Pond, but also to create educational resources about the project to further education about ecologically-focused solutions to such problems and bring awareness to needs such as this in the Worcester community.

“Thank you to the Baker-Polito administration for your generous support of Falmouth’s continuing efforts to revitalize the Coonmessett River and its surroundings,” said State Senator Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth). “The Town of Falmouth has put an extraordinary amount of time and energy into conservation efforts for this important historical and natural resource and I am proud that the Commonwealth is able to continue partnering with them.”

“Cape Cod’s quality of life and the livelihoods for so many residents depends on the critical work that organizations like the Association to Preserve Cape Cod and the Friends of Herring River perform daily to ensure our water quality is protected and restored,” said State Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “I want to thank the Massachusetts Environmental Trust for supporting two agencies that are important advocates for our unique coastal region.” 

“We must preserve and restore not only our environment and natural resources, but also the culture that ties them to the local community,” said State Representative Dylan Fernandes (D-Falmouth). “This grant ensures that the story of the Coonamessett Trail will endure for generations. Thank you to the Massachusetts Environmental Trust for prioritizing these important and necessary projects.”  

“Whales play a vital role in the ocean’s ecosystem where they help provide ½ of the oxygen we breathe and help to combat climate change,” said State Representative Mathew Muratore (R-Plymouth). “I am grateful to the Baker-Polito Administration for this grant, which will helpWhale and Dolphin Conservation, Inc. to continue their efforts to educate the public on the importance of protecting these threatened creatures.”