(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/2007)
A $93 million project years in the making is beginning work to restore parts of the Muddy River to help prevent flooding of the river that runs through the heart of Boston’s Emerald Necklace.
The first phase of the Muddy River Restoration Project will re-open parts of the river that have been covered over the years, install larger culverts to improve water flow, and make other habitat and landscape improvements to the parklands surrounding the river.
The project, led by the Army Corps of Engineers, will remove two 72-inch culverts and install two 24-foot by10-foot culverts to carry river water under the Riverway and Brookline Avenue. It will also re-expose the river between the Riverway and Avenue Louis Pasteur, including the area covered to make way for the now abandoned Sears Parking Lot.
“Just think about what this project will do. We’ll have a much better Emerald Necklace,” said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino at the project’s ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday on the land in front of the Landmark Center that will be transformed so the river will be visible.
“We won’t get the calls when there’s heavy rainstorms—‘its raining here we need sandbags,’” he said.
Boston, Brookline, state, and federal officials, along with residents and neighbors have spent years trying to prevent those calls by developing the multiphase project.
Former Gov. Michael Dukakis has been working to restore the parklands since his time in office, but it was the flooding caused by heavy rains overflowing the river in 1996 that pushed the initiative to restore the narrowed river.
The overflow caused by the storm water flooded the MBTA’s Kenmore Station and nearby homes, hospitals, schools, and businesses causing nearly $60 million in damage.
Those who worked on the project were eager to see it come to fruition and applauded the collaboration of so many agencies and organizations.
“It’s a long time coming,” said Gov. Deval Patrick. “This is a project that comes from the grassroots up—you might even say the muddy waters up.”
Work for the first phase of the project, which is expected to last three years and cost $31 million, will include the areas of Upper Fens Pond, Brookline Avenue between Park Drive and the Fenway, and roadways near the Landmark Center.
Traffic around the Landmark Center will be realigned and the jug handle will be removed as part of the project. New river crossings will also be built.
The second phase of the project will dredge the river, remove invasive plants, and replant appropriate plants on the river’s edge.
These changes will improve the natural habitat and allow the river to handle more rainwater, according to officials.
The Army Corps of Engineers is funding 65 percent of the project while the state has provided $11 million.