The Massachusetts Rivers Alliance was incorporated in 2007, and acquired its first staff in June 2009. Mass Rivers’ mission is to protect and restore rivers across the Commonwealth. A related goal for us is to strengthen, connect, and empower individuals and organizations working to protect rivers in our state. Mass Rivers has grown quickly and now has over 60 organizational members. We also welcome individual, families, and businesses — See our Membership page to view a list of our current member organizations or to become a Mass Rivers member!
After interviewing over 75 river advocates, regulatory staff and others to find out what they considered the most important issues affecting rivers, Mass Rivers seized the opportunity to use the power of our statewide community to make a difference for rivers, beginning in the fall of 2009. That year we teamed with organizational partners to convince the state to reverse a poor policy decision that would have weakened flow protection for rivers throughout the state, and helped defeat a proposal to reactivate wells in the Sudbury basin. We also organized a vigorous, supportive, statewide response to the EPA’s draft stormwater permit.
During the following four years, Mass Rivers staff and partners worked intensively with the Commonwealth’s environmental agencies and other stakeholders to improve flow protection for rivers around the state through the Sustainable Water Management Initiative (SWMI), and sought common ground with municipal water suppliers. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) promulgated new water permitting regulations in 2014, and we continue to work with the agency and other stakeholders as the new permitting rules are implemented.
Our vision document, Water 2020, grew out of a 2010 “River Summit” with river advocates around the state. This document answers the question: What do we want our water future to look like — and how will we get there? The short answer is: Enough clean water for both people and wildlife, and healthy, connected aquatic habitats. Storm water management, stream flow protection, and water supply infrastructure and financing emerged as important issues for advocates.
In 2011, in addition to our ongoing work with the Sustainable Water Management Initiative, Mass Rivers partnered with the staff at the Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (formerly, the Riverways Program) to hold a two-day conference on River Monitoring for Climate Change, the first of its kind in New England. We attracted an overflow crowd! We also held a series of member meetings to decode the EPA’s complicated proposed new municipal stormwater permits, and coordinated environmental support for those permits. The latest word is that we can expect to see reissued draft permits in early 2016.
In 2013 Mass Rivers teamed with the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (once again!), and a group of other experts — 15 organizations in all — to bring a series of three workshops on “Improved Stream Crossings” to municipalities, planners, engineers, and environmental activists in the Berkshires and Pioneer Valley. We repeated this highly popular series of workshops in October in three locations in eastern Massachusetts in the spring of 2014.
In 2015, we focused on storm water, again leading a coalition of environmental partners to support an EPA draft permit, and presenting a new series of workshops for municipal staff on stormwater financing. We are also coordinating river advocates’ and other environmental groups’ responses to Governor Baker’s Executive Order 562 (regulatory review), and participating in several other state initiatives, including a possible request by the new administration for primacy over Clean Water Act programs, water infrastructure funding changes, regional storm water collaboratives, and energy policy as it affects rivers (primarily hydropower).
During the past several years, water issues have emerged as critically important to the future of the Commonwealth. Climate change and renewable energy choices, stormwater management, the need for a sustainable water supply that also balances environmental needs, and the need to replace the state’s decaying water infrastructure are interrelated policy challenges that must be addressed in the coming years. The Massachusetts Rivers Alliance is currently working on all of these issues, and will continue to engage the environmental community as a strong voice on behalf of rivers.