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State funding will help restore Great Salt Marsh

The Trustees of Reservations is set to receive state funding and technical support for a restoration it is undertaking in part of the Great Salt Marsh.

The project was among 12 river and wetlands restorations recently designated Priority Projects by the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game. Priority Projects are eligible for technical services and grants.

The Trustees project is a pilot initiative to develop methods for restoring salt marsh habitat in the face of sea level rise at Old Town Hill Reservation in Newbury; Stavros Reservation in Essex; and Crane Beach and Crane Wildlife Refuge in Ipswich and Essex, all Trustees properties.

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The 300 acres targeted for restoration serve as a key environmental buffer, protecting neighboring communities and valuable habitat, according to the Trustees.

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The nonprofit conservation organization protects 15 percent of the The Great Marsh, which spans more than 20,000 acres from Cape Ann to the New Hampshire border.

The Trustees will seek state funds and technical assistance to restore salt marsh habitat degraded by historic ditching and flooding from sea level rise, and to improve the overall health and resiliency of the salt marsh. The work is projected to take three to five years.

By restoring natural marsh hydrology through an innovative natural technique — using loosely braided, layered salt hay — the Trustees hope to rebuild the salt marsh over time and stabilize, or even increase, the number of species inhabiting the high marsh along the coast.

The state previously awarded the Trustees a $15,740 grant through the federally funded Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program to support the restoration.

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The Great Salt Marsh includes areas of Essex, Gloucester, Ipswich, Newbury, Newburyport, Rowley, and Salisbury.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.