The Ballard Street salt marsh is located just northeast of Boston in a densely populated urban area. In the 1960s, the construction and subsequent abandonment of a 30-foot high interstate highway berm began the process of the degradation of the marsh by cutting off tidal flow and trapping sediments, elevating water levels above sea level, and creating a brackish environment. The existing degraded habitat is further threatened by tidal restriction from outdated, non-functional tide gates.
The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) has established a two-phase program to enhance tidal flows and remove accumulated sediments. CZM's goal for this project is the restoration of the marsh to a fully functioning, self sustaining salt marsh environment.
Geosyntec's Scope of Services
Geosyntec worked hand-in-hand with CZM's Wetland Restoration Program to provide technical review and other support services for the Ballard Street Marsh Restoration Project. The project was carried out in a phased approach whereby CZM and Geosyntec developed a plan to optimally apply the limited funding resources made available by the Commonwealth to implement the complete restoration program.
Phase I of the project involves installing a new culvert with a self-regulating tide gate (designed by others) in order to restore tidal flow to the marsh while increasing tidal flushing, allowing native vegetation restoration and improving water quality. Geosyntec's role in Phase I was to review all of the previous studies, designs, and permits related to the project, and then obtain the necessary additional state and federal permits and approvals to move the project forward. Geosyntec addressed requirements of Sections 401 and 404 of the Clean Water Act, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation review, and studies and documentation for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the requirements of the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act.
Phase II of the project involves dredging about 80,000 cubic yards of accumulated sediment from about 20 acres of the marsh area, lowering the ground elevation of the marsh to a level that allows tidal flushing through the new self-regulating tide gate. Geosyntec began this phase by developing and implementing a detailed sediment sampling plan to evaluate the potential for on-site usage/disposal of dredged sediments and, if found to be contaminated, evaluate potential off-site removal and disposal options. Geosyntec was also charged with developing a construction erosion and sediment control plan for the dredging.
This coastal marsh restoration project requires a significant effort to obtain all of the necessary approvals and permits from a number of federal, state, and local agencies. Geosyntec is well on our way to accomplishing that goal, and we have also assisted the client in conducting several of the studies that are required for the EIR. In fact, Geosyntec has accomplished many of the goals of the EIR, to the point where we are negotiating on behalf of CZM with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office to demonstrate that CZM has substantively met the requirements of the EIR without the further expenditure of funds for investigation or analysis activities.