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Ipswich River Restoration Project Awarded Over $1 Million in Targeted Watershed Initiative

Release Date: 07/19/04
Contact Information: Contact: David Deegan, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1017

For Immediate Release: July 19, 2004 ; Release # 04-07-18

BOSTON - A collaborative effort by state, local and private agencies working to restore better health to the Ipswich River was awarded a grant of more than $1 million today by EPA under the Targeted Watershed initiative. The Ipswich project was one of only fourteen watersheds identified for one of the coveted grants, which is part of a broader national effort announced today by EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt.

The Ipswich River is suffering from the effects of increased development. As towns pump drinking water out of the aquifer, and as undeveloped lands are converted into highways, parking lots and other waterproof surfaces that keep rainfall from replenishing the aquifer, the river is literally drying up. The combination of intensive development and increased nonpoint source pollution results in extremely low levels of dissolved oxygen, high water temperatures, algal blooms, elevated nutrients and pathogens in the river.

“I am very glad that the Ipswich Watershed was selected from the more than 115 nominations for Targeted Watershed grants,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England regional office. “This commitment of money – over one million dollars – demonstrates EPA’s resolve to address this extremely complex challenge, the important issue of low flow in a once vital river.”

The nomination of the Ipswich River Watershed was proposed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, with the support of Governor Romney, to support priority state work on restoring the headwaters region of the Ipswich River. This project will develop and measure the effectiveness of a number of tools aimed at increasing recharge of aquifers and decreasing water usage.

“This is a tremendous gift, and the timing of the EPA grant couldn’t be better,” said Jim Stergios, Undersecretary for Policy of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. “The partnership will fund precisely the kind of water conservation, flow restoration and development priorities developed by the Water Policy Taskforce.”

“The Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation is thrilled to have the opportunity to concentrate a variety of restoration efforts in one of the most stressed watersheds in the state and in the nation. The communities in the headwaters of the Ipswich River watershed, the Ipswich River Watershed Association, and the U.S. Geological Survey have all been great partners with us in developing this plan to conserve groundwater and maximize the use of storm water in alleviating the Ipswich's severe water deficits," commented Joe McGinn, Director of the MA DCR’s Division of Water Supply Protection.

EPA's funding with this grant recognizes that the front line in protecting the nations waters is often found at the local watershed group level. This project is a collaboration that also includes the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Ipswich River Watershed Association, the U.S. Geological Service and the communities of Reading, Wilmington, North Reading, and Topsfield.

“The Ipswich River Watershed Association is very grateful that EPA has awarded this grant, which will be instrumental in moving forward with the restoration of the Ipswich River,” said Kerry Mackin, Executive Director of the Ipswich River Watershed Association.

The grant money provided by EPA is designed to accomplish several goals:

    • First, to promote river-friendly development through the use of what is called “low impact development.” By employing new ideas such as porous pavement and other innovations, this work will implement measures that allow more water to enter into the aquifer instead of running off impervious surfaces such as roads and parking lots.
    • Second, to demonstrate a high-tech lawn watering controller. This controller receives continuous wireless transmitted data on solar radiation, temperature, relative humidity and wind and delivers optimum amounts of water based on water needs of the landscape. This new technology promises to help reduce irrigation volumes by 50 percent.
    • Third, to adjust water billing procedures to encourage conservation. The project will replace 500 conventional water meters with radio read meters which will be read monthly, instead of every six months. Topsfield will also implement a progressive rate structure to encourage conservation and compare this user group against the non-progressively billed group.
After implementing these projects and measuring their benefits, the project will be better able to model and predict the impact of widespread implementation throughout the watershed. Better understanding will inform choices about what else may need to be done to improve the health of the Ipswich River, and how the greatest benefit can be achieved most efficiently.

EPA New England is proud to have been the model for a national launch of the targeted watershed initiative. Several years ago, former EPA Administrator Christie Whitman was so impressed with the local Charles River watershed approach that EPA is now employing these practices with other watersheds around the country. The grants announced today by EPA are winners of a national competition covering 20,000 square miles of the nation’s lakes, rivers and streams.

The Ipswich nomination supports ongoing state and EPA efforts to restore the physical and biological integrity of the river and to restore flows and water quality. Making the connections between managing water withdrawals, infiltration and water quality is an important priority for both EPA and Massachusetts.

Related Information:
Non-Point Source