Construction on the Muddy River Restoration Project, a flood and erosion mitigation program, which aims to enhance aquatic habitats in the Muddy River and improve the water quality of the river, has officially begun, inciting anger in a number of locals.
Early construction has involved tree removal, changes of traffic patterns in the area and the removal of a culvert in Brookline that is currently covering the Muddy River.
The project is a collaboration between the Federal, Commonwealth, City of Boston and Brookline governments.
As construction continues over the next few weeks, residents and people who drive in the area will begin to see changes in traffic patterns.
Mike Keegan of the Army Corps of Engineers, project manager of the Muddy River Restoration, said progress is coming.
“We are doing some work on some tree removal,” Keegan said. “We will also be doing work of the relocation of the landmark driveway. We will be starting work of the culvert under Brookline Avenue, between now and the end of March. It is starting slowly because of the winter, but we are glad to be making progress.”
Keegan said the Army Corps of Engineers is working hard to keep the community informed of the changes the construction will be yield.
“What we are trying to do is coordinate with people as much as possible,” Keegan said. “We do have on our webpage a 90-day look-ahead. People can get on there and see what construction is coming up in the next 90 days. We are building a mailing list so that, as we get information, we can send out an email blast to give people information about the project.”
The project has been fairly well received, but there are several local groups against the construction plans of the Muddy River Restoration.
Members of Save the Muddy River, a community group focused on protecting the current ecosystem and habitat of the Muddy River, said they are strongly against the project.
“We think the Muddy River Restoration Project is ill-advised, but agree that certain issues such as flooding and pollution of the river must be addressed,” said Save the Muddy River member Hilary Johansen, in an email statement. “We’d like to see taxpayer money used in a way that promotes and protects a healthy ecosystem.”
The group has worked to spread information about the negative ecosystem impacts the construction project has, especially in regards to tree removal and herbicide use.
“Unfortunately our protest of the tree cutting was not as successful as we had hoped, and we lost a 100-plus-year-old Bur Oak tree that was 43 inches in diameter,” Johansen said. “This is a devastating loss. With continued efforts of protest, we hope to influence a change in plans for phase two of the project, especially regarding the use of herbicides on the common reed, Phragmites.”
Both the Maintenance and Management Oversight Committee and the Army Corps of Engineers said they have addressed the concerns of this group.
“We have gotten some emails from them,” Keegan said. “We responded to the emails. We are taking approximately 200 trees out. We are putting approximately 200 trees in their place. The trees we are putting in are going over a smaller area. We will have more trees on less space, as well as planning more than 11,000 small, medium and large shrubs.”
The MMOC is still in full support of the planned ecosystem changes that will attempt to mitigate the risk of flooding in the area.
“This is America and people have the right to express their opinions,” said Fran Gershwin, the chair of the Muddy River Restoration Project and Management Oversight Committee. “When the opinions are based on some misinformation we try to do the best we can to provide additional information. That’s not to say it will satisfy everyone of course.”