The 10-years-in-the-making Muddy River Restoration Project is about to begin, and some Fenway residents are not happy.
Although members of the Save the Muddy River organization support the basic intentions of cleaning the river, the planned process is not the right way to achieve those objectives, said member Hilary Johansen.
"We don’t feel like cleaning the river is a bad idea, but going about it this way is not the most environmentally friendly way to do it," said Johansen.
Johansen, who graduated from Wheelock last year, spent a few semesters studying the river's ecosystem: its plants, animals and their habitats. Through her research, she determined the state's decade old environmental impact surveys were out of date and out of touch.
"As a group, we feel that the entire project is misguided because the Department of Conservation environmental impact surveys are ten years old, and the ecosystem has changed since then," she said. "We feel the Army Corps doesn't have enough information on the current ecosystem."
A public meeting on the project is planned for Thursday, Jan. 31st at 7 p.m. At the meeting, Mike Keegan, Project Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will provide a brief overview of the Muddy River Project, discuss construction-related impacts including traffic management, and present the activities that will occur in the next 90-days as well as how the public can learn about the upcoming activities. You can find the presentation here.
This public meeting is co-hosted by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), City of Boston Parks Department, Town of Brookline Department of Public Works, the Muddy River Restoration Project Maintenance and Management Oversight Committee and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy.
The largest negative impacts, according to Johansen, are taking down several large, decades old trees and hundreds of other trees, some more than 100 years old.
"These trees are part of the ecosystem and they can't be replaced," said Johansen. "The Army Corps is saying the trees need to be removed to mitigate flooding, but the resulting damange from tree removal could more likely than not increase the flooding of the area."
The first set of large trees will be removed staring on Febuary 4th, according to the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Johansen said the group faces similar issues with the eradication of Phragmite reeds, a plant that's not native to the area but is abundant along the riverbanks.
"A lot of people do see it as an invasive species, but through our research that we’ve done we learned they’re actually the most appropriate plant for a city wetland," she said. "The phragmite supports a wide diversity of bird and mammal speices along the river, like geese, ducks, blackbirds, muskrats."
River dreging also puts these animals, plus turtles and others, in danger, both through physical harm and habitat destruction, she added.
Instead, Johansen proposed installing a flood gate at the areas where the river is known to flood near the Green Line.
"If they're planning to spend $92 million of federal and state local tax money on this project, there are better ways their money can be served," she said.
Currently, the group is planning to attend Thursday night's public meeting and has begun to protest publically by holding signs in near the Green Line's Fenway T stop. A second protest is planned for next Monday that Johansen hopes will draw several hundred people.
"We're encouraging people to attend the meeting and ask questions," Johansen said.
Residents can get involved with the group through emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. and following @savemuddyriver on Twitter.
If you have questions about the public meeting, please call 617-626-4974 or email DCR.Updates@state.ma.us.