Sucker Brook Continuity Restoration Project - Building Community Resiliency
The Town of Pepperell is working with the Squan-a-Tissit Chapter of Trout Unlimited, MA Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), and Nashoba Conservation Trust to restore stream continuity and build community resiliency on Sucker Brook. The Project is possible because of the incredible generosity of funding and/or technical services provided by DER, the Squan-a-Tissit Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and the MA Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program. Protecting key species and monitoring the environmental response to this work is a critical part of the project that is being supported by our partners at MassWildlife, the MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, and UMass. The engineering teams from Gomez and Sullivan Engineers and Horsley Witten Group are providing engineering and technical services.
What are the benefits of restoring stream continuity?
- Improve water quality and quantity. Sucker Brook provides recharge for two municipal drinking water wellheads. Pepperell recently invested $8.5M for a Green Sands filtration system to address elevated levels of manganese and iron at this wellhead and protecting the quality of this water source is critical;
- Improve ecological conditions in Sucker Brook, and the greenway along its banks, to benefit native rare and endangered species of wildlife and populations of native brook trout;
- Mitigate climate change impacts on Sucker Brook, a coldwater fishery, and its wildlife;
- Build climate resiliency by replacing undersized and failing culverts with culverts that meet MA Stream Crossing Standards, which eliminate flooding of local roadways and agricultural fields and afford resiliency for future climate change conditions;
- Eliminate public safety concerns by replacing culverts before they fail and result in road closures, which could impact Pepperell’s more vulnerable populations and delay emergency response times; and
- Reduce ongoing maintenance by the Highway Department who spend time before, during, and after rain events, especially when heavy rainfall is predicted, to monitor culverts throughout the town.
What do we hope to learn from this project?
Monitoring efforts pre- and post-dam removal and culvert replacement, will take place within the Project area to evaluate long-term impacts and climate resiliency benefits of the project. Monitoring efforts will include:
- Photo Stations to capture changes to physical and biological conditions in riparian vegetation or channel features;
- Fish Community Assessments to collect presence/absence data on fish communities;
- Mussel Surveys and Monitoring to study populations of rare mussels and understand the impacts on all mussel species present;
- Sediment Management and Monitoring to evaluate sediment movement pre- and post-dam removal;
- Ongoing Stream Temperature Monitoring post project completion by UMass Amherst, working with the Squan-a-Tissit Chapter of Trout Unlimited, for comparison with data collected over the past three years upstream and downstream of the Project site; and
- Vegetation Monitoring of riparian areas as well as those areas along the shoreline of the impoundments for invasive species.
On Saturday, May 21, following a call for volunteers from Pepperell’s Native and Invasive Plant Advisory Committee, the Conservation Commission, and the Squan-aTissit Chapter of Trout Unlimited, more than 30 volunteers of all ages worked together to prepare and plant over 140 shrubs and 500 plant plugs at the recently-installed culvert at the Keyes Parker Conservation Area. The day’s forecast threatened temperatures over 90 degrees but the team of volunteers came early and stayed until every shrub and plug was planted. Volunteers can be seen trimming the plugs and prepping the roots for planting and others can be seen digging holes and/or planting.
The restoration work on Sucker Brook, a coldwater stream, was made possible because of the generosity of the MA Division of Ecological Restoration and the MA Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program together with the Town of Pepperell and the Squan-a-Tissit Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Restoring stream continuity and improving the quality of the stream as well as building climate resiliency by employing Nature-based Solutions has been a critical component of the project and the use of native plants that tolerate and adapt well to Pepperell’s climate were used throughout the restoration area.
Project Team, funders, and others working with the Town of Pepperell on the Sucker Brook Continuity Restoration Project
Squan-a-Tissit Chapter of Trout Unlimited – The mission of the Chapter is to “Preserve, protect and restore the Nissitissit and Squannacook watershed”. The Squan-a-Tissit Chapter of Trout Unlimited has committed up to $30,000 for the Project and has provided countless hours of volunteer time to support this effort. Additional details of the work the local Chapter has been involved with can be found on their website.
MA Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) – DER restores and protects rivers, wetlands, and watersheds in Massachusetts for the benefit of people and the environment. DER has two programs that have provided financial and/or technical assistance for the Project. The Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant Program awarded the Town of Pepperell a $113,000 grant in 2019 to fund the cost of field data collection, design and engineering, and permitting for the Heald Street culvert replacement. For fiscal year 2022, the Program awarded a grant for the project in the amount of $373,000 for fabrication of the culvert structure and construction. In 2018, DER’s Priority Projects Program selected the dam removal and culvert replacement at the Keyes Parker Conservation Area as a Priority Project, making it eligible for additional funding or technical assistance from DER. Project oversight, significant funding, and technical assistance to conduct field data collection, design and engineering, and permitting for the dam removal and culvert replacement have been provided by DER every year since 2018.
Massachusetts Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program – The MVP Program provides support for cities and towns in Massachusetts to begin the process of planning for climate change resiliency and implementing priority projects. The state awards communities with funding to complete vulnerability assessments and develop action-oriented resiliency plans. After completing the MVP planning grant process in 2019, a process coordinated by consultants hired by the Town of Pepperell, which included public workshops and meetings to assess Pepperell’s vulnerabilities, prepare for future impacts from climate change, and build community resiliency, the Town of Pepperell became an MVP Community. As an MVP Community, the town became eligible to apply for action grants to fund proactive adaption projects focused on nature-based solutions as much as possible with a strong focus on equitability. The Town of Pepperell recently received an action grant in the amount of $492,030 for construction costs related to both the Heald Street culvert and the dam removal and culvert replacement at the Keyes Parker Conservation Area.
Nashoba Conservation Trust, Inc. (NCT) – NCT is a non-profit land trust dedicated to the preservation and protection of Pepperell’s rural character, its biodiversity, and its natural resources. NCT has committed to provide in-kind volunteer time related to all aspects of the project