A climate change adaptation plan developed by the Manomet Center is being used to guide efforts to increase the health and resilience of the Taunton River watershed in southeastern Massachusetts.


The Taunton River is the longest undammed coastal waterway in the region, stretching from its headwaters in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, through ten communities over 40 miles.


“Climate change is impacting both natural systems and the built environment in the Taunton River watershed. Flood threat is increasing, tidal wetlands are being lost to sea level rise and new species are becoming established in the watershed as temperatures warm,” said Manomet Program Director Eric Walberg. “Heavy precipitation events have increased 67 percent over the last 50 years in New England, and that trend is projected to continue.”


The EPA is leading an effort to identify and prioritize projects that will increase the Taunton River watershed’s health and its resilience to the impacts of climate change. According to Walberg, “the Manomet adaptation plan for the Taunton is providing guidance to the working group on both the current impacts of climate change and recommended adaptation measures to improve the resiliency of green and gray infrastructure.”


On December 16th, a meeting was held at Bridgewater State College during which representatives from various groups presented projects they have completed within the watershed and potential future projects. Stakeholders from local, state and federal governments, for profit groups and nonprofits are all participating in the project prioritization process.


At the meeting, Walberg presented on the climate change adaptation plan he developed for the watershed and its recommended adaptation strategies.


The Taunton River Watershed is one of eight sites in Maine and Massachusetts for which Walberg and partners developed climate change adaptation plans with funding from the Kresge Foundation. The plans were developed over the course of three years and are intended to provide insight on approaches to climate change adaptation that maximize ecosystem resilience.


The Taunton River watershed climate change adaptation plan’s recommended adaptation strategies aim to maximize the benefits of the natural ecosystem services provided by a healthy, intact watershed (such as flood control and water quality protection) against the backdrop of a rapidly changing climate.


“Initially, these meetings were not really focused on climate issues,” Walberg said. “Now, the group of stakeholders agrees that climate resilience will be a dominant factor in prioritizing restoration efforts in the watershed. Manomet’s approach of focusing on adaptation strategies that maximize ecosystem service function is helping to shape this group discussion and move it forward.”


Among the items discussed at the meeting were the replacement of old dams and culverts to improve natural ecosystem function and provide better flood control, wetlands restoration projects and the direction of future land use and development in the watershed.


“Through this process, we are capitalizing on the climate change adaptation plan we developed for the watershed and working with stakeholders to provide a framework for watershed-scale climate change planning,” Walberg said. “This approach will likely serve as an example for the EPA’s future planning and restoration efforts in other watersheds.”


Click here to view the full climate change adaptation plan for the Taunton River watershed.


Click here for a full list of climate change adaptation plans developed through the recent Manomet project.


– Haley Jordan