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Mashpee Receives Grant Toward Santuit Improvements 9-20-17

Mashpee Receives Grant Toward Santuit Improvements
By SAM HOUGHTON Sep 20, 2017

The Mashpee Enterprise

Good news has arrived for herring and the new brook trout recently reintroduced to the Santuit River.

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, in conjunction with Climate Week, announced late last week that Mashpee is the recipient of a $50,000 grant to design a new culvert underneath Sampsons Mill Road.

Replacing the culvert will improve fish passage as well as stormwater infrastructure.

As it stands now, puddles collect on the road. Also, an undersized culvert at the site has led to a number of issues for Mashpee's easternmost river, which forms part of the town's boundary with Barnstable.

Fisheries advocates and other conservationists have long worked to restore fish passage within Mashpee's river systems.

In an excerpt from the grant application, the Mashpee Conservation Department states that the impediment in the flow also has caused erosion of the Santuit riverbank and widening the river in certain areas. Widening of the river increases the temperature of the water, leading to a more detrimental habitat for brook trout.

Mud and sediment also have accumulated along the river bed as a result of the river's impeded flow, starving the marshes in Shoestring Bay and covering the trout's natural spawning habitat along the river.

The culvert also was constructed on an elevated plane, causing the unnecessary expenditure of energy by the trout and herring when passing through.

Trout historically were abundant in the Santuit and other Cape rivers.

The last time trout were recorded in the Santuit was in 2003.

In 2015, the Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife—along with the US Geological Survey, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, and Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition—sampled the river for brook trout using electro-fish techniques and eDNA, a surveillance tool used to monitor for the genetic presence of an aquatic species. The last survey of the brook trout in 2003 showed abundant populations of the small fish, so when their surveying came up empty, the researchers were shocked and dismayed.

In May, the group has reintroduced brook trout to the river as well as improved the habitat for the fish including adding what are called "hides" or places for the trout to stay clear of potential predators.

Construction of a larger culvert would continue that improvement effort.

A larger culvert would lend to creating a cool, fast-flowing, cleaner source of water for herring and brook trout, as well as other wildlife.

A faster river lends to an increase in sediment transport, clearing the river bed of compacted mud and sediment to expose the gravel bed, and contribute to natural marsh accretion. The conservation department said that fish populations could ultimately increase as a result of the changes.

Catherine E. Laurent, the director of the Mashpee Department of Public Works director, said that the age of the culvert is unknown at this point. But based on its construction, she said, the structure is fairly old. The original construction included a combination of stone masonry walls with granite slab roof.

Ms. Laurent said that the $50,000 grant would cover design and permitting, but she hopes another grant could help construction. She identified the US Department of Agriculture's Cape Cod Water Resources Restoration Project for possible funding.

In addition to the DPW, supportive partners in the grant initiative were the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, the Town of Barnstable's Natural Resource Department, and the Town of Mashpee's Conservation Department.

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