River project lacks funds

December 14, 2007
By

JOHN RUCH

PONDSIDE—A massive project to restore three ailing ponds along the Jamaica Plain-Brookline border has been stiffed in the draft federal budget. If Congress doesn’t put the funds back, officials say, the pond restoration will miss a construction date already pushed back a few years—or won’t happen at all.

The local project involves three small ponds in Olmsted Park along the Jamaicaway. It does not include Jamaica Pond.

Other parts of the Muddy River Restoration Project are moving ahead with some funding, including a plan to unearth 700 feet of the now-buried river in the Fenway.

The Muddy is a heavily altered river that flows from Jamaica Pond through Ward’s, Willow and Leverett ponds, then along the Brookline border, through the Fenway and Back Bay and finally into the Charles River.

Choked with sediment, reeds and undersized culverts, the Muddy floods regularly. Floods did huge damage in 1996 and 1998 in the Longwood Medical and Academic Area and the Fenway.

Boston, Brookline and state agencies are collaborating on the project with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). It involves clearing and dredging the river and giving it more room to flow.

The City of Boston previously did its own repairs to the Charlesgate area, where the Muddy enters the Charles.

But the main work will be done by USACE. It is planned to begin around next summer by “daylighting” the river from the Landmark Center to Avenue Louis Pasteur. That includes removing the “jug handle” road connecting Brookline Avenue and Park Drive.

USACE wants to begin the second phase—the JP-area work—about 18 months after that.

The project is intended not only to reduce flooding, but to have environmental benefits. The pond restoration work falls into the latter category. USACE in the still-pending federal budget funded the flood control part of the project, but not the environment restoration part, USACE engineer Mike Keegan said at a Dec. 6 project update meeting at the Landmark Center.

The exact amount of funding needed is uncertain, but it appears to be around $10 million. USACE would not be the only funder of the project, but federal money is fundamental to the project.

The project would involve dredging the heavily silted ponds and restoring the Babbling Brook, a choked trickle that connects them. It would also restore some islands to Leverett Pond, the largest of the three.

For more information, see the project web site at www.muddyrivermmoc.org.