Saving the Neponset Estuary

A new effort to restore damaged salt marshes and migratory fish runs threatened by filling, dredging, tidal restrictions, dams and sea level rise.

Your support for our 2023 year-end appeal will help launch new effort to restore damaged salt marshes and migratory fish runs threatened by filling, dredging, tidal restrictions, dams and sea level rise.

The Neponset River Estuary is the section of the Neponset where freshwater and saltwater mix to create a unique natural environment.

The Neponset Estuary is a recreational destination and a unique habitat for fish and wildlife from seals, to herring, to bald eagles.

The Neponset Estuary is impacted by development, tidal restrictions and now climate change, making it a habitat restoration priority.

From Conservation to Restoration
Nature thrives in the Neponset River Watershed even though the filling, dredging, damming and polluting that come with 400 years of industrialization and development have taken their toll.

Much of the nature we enjoy today is here thanks to earlier generations of conservation leaders. From Charles Eliot, who called for parks along the Neponset in the 1800s, to more recent leaders like Elizabeth Houghton and John Cronin, early NepRWA leaders who helped block highway and “wetland reclamation” projects in the 1960s that would have paved thousands of acres.

But this long history also means we have lots of repair and restoration work to do if we want to pass on a healthy River to the next generation.

A Resource Worth Protecting
The Neponset River Estuary is where saltwater and freshwater meet on the Neponset. It creates a extraordinarily productive natural environment.

The Neponset Estuary is home to 600 acres of salt marsh that serve as a nursery for fish and shellfish, a habitat for 200+ species of birds, and a foraging spot for seals, among others. Historically, the Estuary attracted migratory fish like herring, shad and alewives that returned to the Neponset from the sea, passing upstream to Walpole each spring, supercharging the food chain, and helping sustain indigenous peoples for thousands of years.

Helping Nature to Help Ourselves
Over the years, our salt marshes have been dissected by ditches, filled with

dredge spoils, cut off from their saltwater flow, and taken over by invasive plants. Our herring and shad have been blocked from swimming upstream by dams for almost 300 years now.

Healthy marshes and fish runs support a diversity of fish and wildlife. They enhance recreation and education along the River, but also help protect our communities from climate change. That’s because healthy marshes and free-flowing rivers serve as “green infrastructure” that help shield the homes and businesses behind the marshes and above or below dams from the growing threat of freshwater flooding and coastal storms.

A Plan to Protect and Restore
Over the next year, we want to document the impairments affecting our salt marshes such as mosquito ditches, fill, invasive species, and tidal restrictions and begin designing restoration projects to bring the marshes back to good health. This will also improve their ability to withstand sea level rise and set the stage for efforts in 2025 to quantify how marsh preservation can reduce storm damage to property around the Estuary.

We also intend to revisit the options to restore our historic herring runs in light of the latest climate science to better understand how sea level rise, increased flooding, and dams on the River will interact, and the best strategies to protect humans and migratory fish alike.

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