Assawompset Ponds Complex, photo courtesy of Buzzards Bay Coalition

On January 26, 2022, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) has awarded a total of $249,967 in grant funding to support the advancement of hydrological modeling in the Assawompset Ponds Complex and Nemasket River watersheds. Hydrological modeling in this area will work to increase climate resilience by informing management and infrastructure decision-making in the face of increasingly common flooding in the towns of Middleborough and Lakeville.

“This funding will help the Towns of Middleborough and Lakeville better prepare for flooding and other climate-related impacts that are expected from stronger and increasingly frequent storms,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Through regional partnerships and cooperative measures, we will continue to make strides in increasing the Commonwealth’s resilience to climate events.”

“Climate resilience throughout the Commonwealth remains one of our Administration’s priorities,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “This funding will aid the Assawompset Ponds Complex and neighboring communities to address the impacts of climate change while also protecting public safety and wildlife habitat.”

Assawompset Pond is the largest natural freshwater lake in Massachusetts. It is part of a more extensive system of ponds (Long, Assawompset, Pocksha, Great Quittacas and Little Quittacas Ponds) collectively called the Assawompset Ponds Complex (APC). The APC serves as the public water supply for New Bedford and Taunton and the headwaters of the Nemasket River, which has the longest herring run in Massachusetts. The APC is part of the Taunton River watershed and spans portions of the Towns of Freetown, Lakeville, Middleborough and Rochester.

Flooding is a frequent issue around the APC and Nemasket River. Past flooding events have caused evacuations, property damage, failures of septic systems and the interruption of critical utility and road infrastructure. Climate change is expected to worsen flooding in the APC, with increasingly severe and frequent storms and rain events.

“This project highlights the importance of working in cooperation with communities and local stakeholders in an effort to achieve mutually beneficial goals that positively impact the public,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “Climate change affects us all, and in order to address its impacts at a regional and watershed level, strong and passionate partnerships are paramount.”

“The Assawompset Pond Complex is an important system that provides habitat for fish and wildlife, drinking water and outdoor recreational opportunities,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Ron Amidon. “This work will increase its resilience to climate change and ensure this system can serve the people and wildlife that depend on it for years to come.”

These grant funds are awarded to the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), which will oversee a group of partners and initiate a long-term hydrological and hydraulic study of the APC, Nemasket River and contributing watersheds within the region.

This effort is the second phase in climate resilience work to address flooding in the APC. The first phase was completed in July 2020, following $100,000 in state funding from DER for an initial planning effort to determine priority actions in the watershed. Today’s award for the second phase of work addresses one of the priorities identified during that planning phase.

“DER is proud to work with the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District and to support their efforts,” said DER Director Beth Lambert. “Importantly, this study will benefit both the people living and working in the region people, as well as wildlife of the APC.”

“I have always prioritized protecting the Assawompsett Pond Complex and its surrounding communities throughout my tenure in the legislature, and I am thrilled that this funding will significantly improve our ability to do so,” said State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Thank you to the Baker-Polito Administration for their continued efforts to preserve our precious natural resources and to bolster climate resiliency across the Commonwealth.”

“This grant helps tremendously with financing the work being done to produce real solutions for the flooding of the Assawompset Pond Complex,” said State Representative Norman Orrall (R-Lakeville). “There are many stakeholders involved, but the most important ones are the taxpayers who are affected by the flooding. I am very thankful that the Baker-Polito administration has once again provided funding that will help provide solutions.”

The mission of the Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) is to restore and protect the Commonwealth’s rivers, wetlands and watersheds for the benefit of people and the environment.

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for promoting the conservation and enjoyment of the Commonwealth’s natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land protection and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and wildlife species, and ecological restoration of freshwater, saltwater and terrestrial habitats. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters.