MERRIMACK CONSERVATION PARTNERSHIP ANNOUNCE 2020 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE, EDUCATION AND OUTREACH GRANT AWARDS

The Merrimack Conservation Partnership (MCP) announced the 2019 recipients of its fourth round of Environmental Science, Education and Outreach grants in the Merrimack Valley Watershed region of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. In this round of grants, the MCP awarded grants totaling $20,376 to five projects that will help fund environmental science, education, and outreach activities related directly to the Merrimack River or its watershed. Funds can be used for activities such as youth or public environmental educational activities, development of outreach and educational materials, river clean ups, water quality testing and monitoring activities, and other science, education, and outreach efforts.

In 2010, the Merrimack was identified by the US Forest Service as the most threatened watershed in the nation in terms of projected loss of private forestland over the next 20 years. The two-state region of the Merrimack Watershed spans a total of 2.1 million acres and 3,275 square miles of which 54% is in NH and 46% in Massachusetts. The Merrimack River starts in Franklin, NH and flows through eight of NH’s largest cities, then continues into Massachusetts to its mouth at Newburyport.

Launched in 2012, the Merrimack Conservation Partnership is a collaborative effort of private organizations and public agencies working on land conservation in the Merrimack Valley Watershed. The partners share a vision of conserving (on a strictly willing-seller/donor basis) the region’s most ecologically significant forests and the key connections between them for wildlife passage and human recreation. The funded projects are:

Applicant: Merrimack River Watershed Council

MCP Grant Award: $5,000
Estimated Total Project Costs: $16,313

Summary:
In light of the continual environmental issue of Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) discharges released into the Merrimack River, the Merrimack River Watershed Council (MRWC) recognizes the need to fill critical data and education gaps with a renewed 2021 water monitoring effort in the bacteria-impaired Merrimack River. The MRWC will conduct water quality testing to collect data on bacterial loading and basic physical parameters in the lower Merrimack River that fill needed data gaps through a 2021 volunteer monitoring program. Furthermore, MRWC will develop an approach, content and schedule for publicizing the specific findings of this project through public educational events and a web-based visualization tool. This tool will be vital for all communities, particularly underserved individuals who may lack access to clear and understandable information about public health risks.

Applicant:  Nashua River Watershed Association

MCP Grant Award: $3,626
Total Project Costs: $4,597

Summary: Nature Quest for Nashua Youth
City parks, along with Nashua’s waterways, provide a natural “classroom” for teaching youth about protecting land and water. One Saturday each month during January – May 2021, staff will lead “Nature Quest” for 20 children ages 8-14 from Nashua’s diverse communities with a morning group meeting online and an afternoon exploration at one local urban park with trails. Using original downloadable scavenger hunts, data sheets, and simple nature guides, families will explore the connections between water and land in each ecosystem including wetlands, ponds, rivers, forests, and fields. NRWA staff will lead each exploration. Participants’ species lists, photographs, and sketches will be curated for display at the Nashua Library.

Applicant: Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust, Inc.

MCP Grant Award: $4,750
Estimated Total Project Costs: $10,000

Summary: Cable Access TV Show: Conservation Through Learning
The Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust (LP&CT) proposes to develop a new cable access television show with Lowell Telemedia Corporation (LTC) and the Lowell Public Schools. “Conservation Through Learning” will be a STEM-based environmental education learning program to augment our after-school virtual programming during the pandemic (and beyond). The goal of the program will be to provide more widely available watershed-based environmental educational content, as well as to increase citizen scientist engagement in the watershed. LP&CT staff will provide the video content, which will be edited by LTC and LP&CT staff into a monthly cable access television show. Shows will air from November 2020 through October 2021 and will be available to all cable access channels in the country to re-air.

Applicant: Ipswich River Watershed Association

MCP Grant Award: $2,500
Estimated Total Project Costs: $14,237

Summary: RiverWatch
The RiverWatch program was begun in 1988 to address water quality threats in the Ispwich River. With the support of the MCP, the IRWA will maintain program enhancements to this long-term, RiverWatch monitoring program. It will continue to monitor chloride levels, survey invasive aquatic plants and macroinvertebrates, and more fully implement a bacteria monitoring program. These threats are best addressed through ongoing and early detection. This citizen science program fulfills a vital need to increase collection of water quality and ecological data and all data collected are currently shared wit hstate agencies that track ecological health of waterways. The program also actively engages the community and promotes environmental stewardship. Volunteer monitors with IRWA and partner organizations will be trained by IRWA staff. Monitor training and sampling will begin in the spring of 2021. Bacteria sampling will take place in the summer of 2021 (pending additional funding) and macroinvertebrate sampling in the fall of 2021. We will prepare a river health index to concisely communicate the state of the river in early 2022.

Applicant: Alliance of Climate & Environmental Stewards (ACES)

MCP Grant Award: $4,500
Estimated Total Project Costs: $12,831

Summary: Our Waters Survey
ACES is particularly concerned about environmental damage being done to the Merrimack River by industrialization, population growth, Combined Sewage Overflow discharges (CSOs), increased upland runoff, and other point and nonpoint source pollutants. In 2019/2020, ACES conducted a very successful observational Pilot Survey of 128 Master Level Rowers on the Merrimack River. We are now planning a broader distribution of the survey electronically through collaborating stakeholder contacts and in-person by surveying users at boat ramps and marina facilities. Six stipend-funded students will collect, analyze, and report on survey data. In addition, high school interns will participate in the public awareness and outreach program conveying the survey results to the general public. The observational monitoring of the river by the people who use it every day provides valuable anecdotal information related to water quality issues and directly involves portions of the population in the issues and potential solutions to achieve a healthy river.

For more information about the MCP, please contact Brian Hotz at (603) 224-9945 or bhotz@forestsociety.org.  Information is also available at http://merrimackconservationpartnership.org.

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