Cape Cod Receives $5 Million “Downpayment” For Water Resource Restoration Projects
By: Michael C. Bailey
“All the fish in the sea are happy,” Margaret A. Geist, executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod (APCC) proclaimed Monday to an audience packed shoulder-to-shoulder in the APCC’s Barnstable Village headquarters. “Today is a wonderful day of celebration.”
The cause for that celebration: the announcement that the US Department of Agriculture had made available the first $5 million toward the 10-year $30 million Cape Cod Water Resources Restoration Project, which last month received the US Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee’s final approval.
The federal government will cover $23.9 million of that amount, with the state providing the rest in matching funds.
According to Interim US Senator Paul G. Kirk Jr. (D), the funding has been fully authorized but still needs to be appropriated, but the $5 million was a positive sign that the full appropriation would follow. “That is a downpayment,” he said. “We are basically on a roll now.”
Sen. Kirk joined Congressman William D. Delahunt (D), Senate President Therese M. Murray (D – Plymouth); dozens of local, county, and state elected officials; and environmental officials and activists from across the region at Monday’s press conference to celebrate what Rep. Delahunt called an example of tapping an existing resource in a creative new way.
The federal Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act (PL-566), the program funding the restoration project, is intended to “provide technical and financial assistance in carrying out works of improvement to protect, develop, and utilize the land and water resources in watersheds.”
The funding will be used to restore 7,300 acres of shellfish beds, 4,200 acres of runs for anadromous fish (species that migrate upstream from the ocean to spawn), and 1,500 of degraded salt marshes. Rep. Delahunt said many of the sites identified for restoration are the victims of “benign neglect” over the years, or were the victims of “a thousand little losses to development.”
A total of 76 projects will be funded, including 31 priority projects for Barnstable and the Upper Cape. Barnstable and Bourne appear on the salt marsh restoration, fish passage restoration, and stormwater runoff remediation project lists; Falmouth and Mashpee appear on the fish passage restoration and stormwater runoff remediation project lists; and Sandwich is on the salt marsh restoration project list.
The first projects to receive funding have yet to be determined.
In addition to the direct environmental benefits, the project will have a direct economic benefit in that it would generate an estimated 543 “person years” -- the amount of work done by one person in a year consisting of a standard number of person-days -- of employment generated through the engineering and construction work needed to carry out the projects. According to Rep. Delahunt, this translates to about 500 new jobs.
The Cape Cod Water Resources Restoration Project is a partnership of federal, state, and local authorities and agencies, including: the Cape Cod Conservation District, the Cape Cod Commission, the Barnstable County Board of County Commissioners, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Buzzards Bay Project - National Estuary Program, and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
Rep. Delahunt had special praise for Lee Davis,chairman of the Cape Cod Conservation District, joking that Mr. Davis “drove us nuts down in Washington” with his tireless work on the project. “Talk about persistence and perseverance.”
Sen. Kirk added a few words of gratitude for his predecessor, the late US Senator Edward M. Kennedy. “This was a project very near and dear to his heart,” Sen. Kirk said, adding that his involvement was “late and brief,” and merely brought Sen. Kennedy’s involvement to a conclusion.
The Final Watershed Plan and Areawide Environmental Impact Statement (includes a detailed list of the 76 projects)
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