Muddy River rehab to roll this year

July 22, 2011
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After years of delays, an Army Corps of Engineers-led project aimed at rehabilitating the Muddy River is getting started this fall, city and federal officials told the Gazette this month.

For Jamaica Plain, that means the final engineering designs for dredging the river—which flows from Jamaica Pond through Ward’s, Willow and Leverett ponds along the Boston-Brookline border—will be drawn up this fall. Jamaica Pond will not be affected by the project.

Once that work starts, the entire river through the Back Bay Fens will be dredged. Also, an earlier phase of work will involve “daylighting”—or unearthing—a section of the river in the Back Bay that currently runs under the Sears Rotary, is scheduled to begin in the fall.

Eliminating the six-foot-wide pipes under the rotary and dredging the river, including removing invasive phragmites— reeds that grow thickly choking many sections of the river—are intended to stem flooding, Margaret Dyson of the city Parks Department told the Gazette.

Daylighting the river, and removing invasives and heavy metals and other toxic elements that have been deposited in the riverbed will also make the river and adjacent park a healthier habitat for wildlife, Dyson said.

Work on the project was, at one point, expected to start in 2008. Prior to that, plans to use Daisy Field on the Jamaicaway as a staging area for the project met with community resistance and opposition from Mayor Thomas Menino.

In a recent interview with the Gazette, Michael Keegan of the Army Corps of Engineers declined to comment on the where staging for the work would take place. He said the engineering designs would be based on a feasibility study conducted in the early 2000s.

Keegan said that each phase will likely take two or three years, and the entire project is likely to be done in five to six years.

As for the delays getting started, Dyson said,“A lot of the permitting and technical work that we had hoped would go quickly ended up taking a lot longer than we had hoped,”

Funding for the $80 million project “has been one thing that has not been an issue,” Dyson said.

One phase of the project has already been completed. In 2004, the city spent $10 million dredging the Muddy in the Charlesgate area, where it empties into the Charles.