New Bedford gets its share of harbor money

By Dan Mcdonald

Our View: Hard work, creativity earned city’s share of harbor money

When the New Bedford Harbor Trustee Council passed over the city’s requests for the last major round of project funding in November, Matthew Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, said, “The city that received the greatest environmental injury should receive the benefit of this funding round.”

Hard work, diplomacy, creative financing and effective city governance have saved the day for the harbor without sacrificing other important projects.

When city officials first learned that New Bedford’s projects – an accessway to Palmer’s Island, the restoration of shellfish beds in Clarks Cove and a North End riverwalk – were going to go unfunded, they went to work studying the merits of other likely projects, negotiating with competing stakeholders, bolstering support, and exploring other sources of funding and services.

In the end, the city ended up with all three projects covered without slighting the competing projects.

Credit goes to all who worked for the various entities and their unselfish commitment to the benefit to the region as a whole. Particularly, however, credit goes to Coalition for Buzzards Bay president Mark Rasmussen for considering broader issues and working with the city, and to New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang and Morrissey, for their diligence, passion and coordinated effort on behalf of all those who will gain from the restored areas damaged so severely by pollution so long ago.

NEW BEDFORD GETS ITS SHARE OF HARBOR MONEY

NEW BEDFORD – In the end, the mayor got what he wanted: funding for an accessway to Palmer’s Island, the restoration of shellfish beds in Clarks Cove and a North End riverwalk.

During the long-awaited announcement of the release of $6.6 million in New Bedford Harbor Trustee Council funding Wednesday afternoon, it was revealed that all three of the projects Mayor Scott W. Lang lobbied for during the council’s funding process will be funded Ñ albeit from different pools of revenue.

The council funding comes from a “natural resource damage settlement” that was reached after electrical parts manufacturers contaminated the harbor for decades.

The council funding will benefit six local projects:

$2.9 million for an Acushnet River walk that will snake down the North End shoreline before crossing over the Coggeshall Street bridge into Fairhaven
$100,000 for ecological restoration of Palmer’s Island in New Bedford
$1.1 million for ecological restoration of the Acushnet Sawmill property in Acushnet
$600,000 for the 46.6-acre LaPalme Farm purchase and restoration in Acushnet
$1.3 million to jump-start the restoration of the Round Hill Marsh in Dartmouth
$485,440 to continue work on three Buzzards Bay islands to provide protection and restoration of common and roseate terns, which is a rare species. The population was harmed by the original release of hazardous substances and continues to be at risk.
Additionally, Richard K. Sullivan Jr., the state’s energy and environmental affairs secretary, announced the city will be receiving a $300,000 state grant for renovations in and around Palmer’s Island. That grant, coupled with $100,000 in council funding, will allow the city to build an accessway, akin to a swing or drop-down footbridge to Palmer’s Island, and build some sort of boardwalk-type trail atop the nearby hurricane barrier, Lang said.

Lang said currently the only way to access the island, which is located on the inside of the hurricane barrier and is home to a lighthouse that dates back to 1849, is by boat or at low tide.

Lang said he also secured a commitment of at least $250,000 in state funding that will be used for quahog bed restoration in Clarks Cove.

Flanked by state and city officials, Sullivan made the council announcement on a whaling museum balcony that offered a panorama of the harbor.

According to Sullivan’s office, from the 1940s to the 1970s, manufacturers discharged wastes containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and toxic metals into the harbor. The contamination polluted hundreds of acres in the harbor and Buzzards Bay. One location contained the highest concentrations of PCBs ever documented in a marine environment, according to Sullivan’s office.

This $6.6 million allocation is the final round of funding. All told, the council has distributed more than $20 million in projects during the past 17 years, thanks to the settlement.

“The original intent of the $20.2 million settlement was to restore the natural resources severely impacted by the gross negligence of those industrial users that released PCBs and other toxic chemicals into New Bedford Harbor,” state Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny, D-New Bedford, said. “It is important that the final award of $6.6 million is directed to those SouthCoast communities that suffered the greatest amount of contamination.”

The New Bedford Harbor Trustee Council comprises representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Last fall, none of the city’s three projects made the council’s short list for funding.

At that time, the trustee council recommended funding four projects: the restoration of a marsh in Round Hill in Dartmouth; the purchase of land in Acushnet; the rehab of the former Acushnet Sawmill property; and the restoration of tern habitat on three islands.

That changed after the city lobbied for funding.

Lang, said Sullivan, did not think the original decision “reflected the relationship between the impact suffered and the relief that was coming.”

Said Lang, “I think they understood it was an issue of equity.”

http://nbedc.org/wp-content/uploads/city_of_new_bedford_upper_harbor_vision_plan.pdf

dmcdonald@s-t.com
June 23, 2011 12:00 AM

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