By Beth Treffeisen
Back in October of 1996 a major storm traveled its way through Boston, causing the water to rise from the Fenway Muddy River, over the banks, and into the Green Line tunnel, causing millions of dollars of damage to signals, utilities and tracks.
In response to this storm and the several that came after, the Army Corps of Engineers decided to step in and restore the Muddy River under a $90 million project. Phase I, which was completed in July, was a total of $30.9 million.
“The goal is to prevent that storm or a similar storm to causing damage to the area,” said Jennifer Flanagan the project manager at the Army Corps of Engineers.
The flooding that occurred was due to the underground converts that where placed in the ground in the 1950s to make way for the Sears parking lot that was once located across the Landmarks Center. The converts through time built up silt that let less and less water through.
By daylighting the converts, it now allows the river to go back to its natural free flowing path, and gives more space back to the water to flow.
Now that Phase I of the project is finished the river flows in its natural state from the pond in Brookline to the Back Bay Fens to where it connects with the Charles River.
The Phase I project itself renovated the new Riverway Culvert at the upstream end, through the new Brookline Avenue Culvert and finally through the existing Avenue Louis Pasteur Culvert at the downstream end.
The Muddy River watershed is 5.6 square miles and is located in Boston, the town of Brookline with a small portion in Newton. The river runs 3.5 miles long and goes through the heart of the Frederick Law Olmstead infamous “Emerald Necklace.”
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the city of Boston and the town of Brookline are all local sponsors of the project. Together they will be responsible for the long-term operation and maintenance of the project.
This will include monitoring water quality, removal of future accumulations of sediment to maintain flood control and monitoring to guard against recolonization by Phragmites or the common reed that is an invasive species in the area.
In the second phase of the project, there will be no environmental restoration but the Army Corps of Engineers have plans to dredge the river, from upstream of Phase I project on the Riverway and then downstream all the way down to the Back Bay Fens. This will then allow it to carry the volume of water brought with a 20-year storm.
“I think it really is an improvement to what was there before,” said Flanagan. “You can actually enjoy what the project is now than before, where it was just a vacant lot.”