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Pair of Tewksbury Wetland, Floodplain Projects Funded

Areas around Poplar St. and Molly Drive to be cleaned up, recreation options added

The Natural Resource Damages Trustee Council for the Sutton Brook Disposal Area Superfund Site will fund two projects, at Poplar Street and Mollie Drive, that will restore wetlands, floodplain and groundwater resources and offer new opportunities for residents to hike and launch canoes or kayaks in the Shawsheen. 

The work will be paid for with $1.512 million in Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration settlement funds.

In 2009, 49 responsible parties agreed to pay $30 million to clean up the 53-acre Sutton Brook Disposal Area Superfund Site, which is located in the area of South St. in Tewksbury, extending into Wilmington. The Trustee Council is charged with using the funds to effectively and efficiently implement restoration efforts, like those planned on these two sites. 

The restoration at Poplar St. will restore buried wetlands, reestablish connections between existing wetlands and increase the floodplain storage capacity and the ability of the site to recharge groundwater. This is where the majority of the funding will be spent. The 79-acre parcel contains the unused Tewksbury South Street Wellfields.

Poplar St. is in a flood plain, and a single culvert is now the only connection between the south and north sides of the street. The restoration will include removing fill, managing invasive species and improving a town conservation property for increased recreation opportunities like hiking and birding.

The restoration at Mollie Drive will restore buried wetlands as well as restore floodplain storage capacity. This is an approximately five-acre parcel that stretches from behind the Knights of Columbus building on Main St. to just beyond the cul-de-sac at the end of Mollie Drive. Given that the site borders the Shawsheen River, primary objectives include removal of fill for increased flood storage capacity and clearing of debris from town conservation property so that the land can be used for passive recreation.

While the primary goal is to alleviate flooding, once old fill and debris are gone and wetlands are restored, further development of a trail network, canoe/kayak launch or other recreational amenities will be feasible, possibly using the town’s Community Preservation Act (CPA) fund, which gives the town resources to preserve our open space, including adding recreational opportunities.  

Both projects are more fully described in the final restoration plan and environmental assessment released last week.

The Trustees will now begin to work with the town to design and permit both projects. Once the designs are complete and all required permits are in place, construction will begin.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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