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CMMCP Ditch Maintenance Program: updated 20-Jan-16



FAQ sheet sent with all initial correspondence to property owners (.pdf 564k)


Restoration Flow chart – click here to see the process used to determine the feasibility of restoration projects in Central Mass. (.pdf 131k)



Restoration project photos:


¨     Hopedale ditch restoration – 1999

¨     Shrewsbury pond reclamation – 2004

¨     Northbridge ditch restoration – 2004

¨     Fitchburg pond reclamation – 2004

¨     Natick Streambank stabilization – 2007


Additional project photos will be uploaded soon – please check back or e-mail us for more information at






Wetlands restoration is an integral part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan. Restoration of degraded wetland areas consists of selectively clearing brush and removing debris from drainage systems to restore historical flow patterns. This can be accomplished with hand tools such as rakes, clippers and chain saws or may require more extensive restoration using a specially designed, low ground pressure (3 psi or less) excavator or other mechanized equipment.


Restoration of wetland areas reduces or often eliminates the need for periodic applications of pesticides to control the larval mosquito. Data collection during larval applications and other field observations help to determine the scope of a restoration project. The Project becomes aware of potential restoration projects through resident or town official requests, CMMCP field technician observations and data collections, or follow up on past restoration projects. The Wetlands Project Coordinator will investigate the site to see if the area will benefit from restoration, and if so, will determine the scope of the project.


It is our goal to reduce the amount of stagnant water in the restoration area, reducing the area to soil saturation, with less than 5,000 sq. ft. of impact to bordering vegetated wetland (BVW). . Maintaining the area at soil saturation will encourage the present vegetation to remain, but will eliminate mosquito breeding.


Wetlands restoration work focuses on those areas that have historic flow patterns and were maintained by local farmers or municipal personnel in the past. Limited wetland restoration work may be done by hand only in natural areas where debris blockage creates a significant health problem.


Restoration work is not typically conducted in true or established wetlands, defined as wetland habitat forming through natural means (natural streams, rivers, ponds, swamps), or existing for several years and providing flood control, water quality improvements or valuable habitat.


Any flooding or creation of wetlands by beavers will only be considered on a limited case-by-case basis and will require a significant level of support and cooperation from the town.


Mechanized equipment used by CMMCP in wetlands use a special hydraulic fluid (Chevron Clarity® Hydraulic Oil AW ISO 46) that is zinc-free and formulated to meet or exceed the performance requirements of conventional anti-wear fluids, while providing an additional level of environmental safety. This hydraulic fluid is inherently biodegradable and passes the EPA's acute aquatic toxicity (LC-50) test, and has substantially better oxidation stability than other conventional hydraulic fluids.





SITE PLAN EXAMPLE: (Littleton, Job #309 – King St.)




SITE SELECTION – Sites will be investigated upon receipt of request. The source of each site selected will be recorded with the site plan.


  • CMMCP larval database.
  • Field personnel's observation.
  • Investigation of residents' request.
  • Investigation of public official’s request.


SITE HISTORY - A history of the ditch and any past maintenance work should be gathered from one or more of the sources listed. Any history of change in use of the area should be noted (i.e. from agricultural to residential).


  • Physical evidence- such as spoil deposits, soil profile, tree stumps, structures, etc.,
  • Historical evidence such as municipal, state or mosquito control records or maps.
  • Recollection of residents, abutters, town officials, etc.


BREEDING HISTORY OR POTENTIAL - A history of mosquito breeding or significant potential of mosquito breeding which may impact a human population must be evident from one or more of the sources listed.


  • Larviciding site records.
  • Field Personnel's observations
  • Residents/public officials' complaints
  • An existing condition which in the judgment of the Wetland Project Coordinator or mosquito control Superintendent/Director may cause mosquito breeding to a degree which will have a significant impact on a human population.


SITE PLAN - A survey to establish preexisting site conditions and plan of proposed ditch maintenance activities.


  • Cause and effect - A brief narrative description of the cause and effect of the problem or potential problem associated with the need for the ditch maintenance project.
  • Site map - A copy of an assessors, topographical, and/or aerial photograph indicating area of proposed ditch maintenance, access and egress.
  • Photographic record – Documentation of the existing condition will be made using digital photography.  The restored condition will also be documented several months after maintenance has been performed for a complete project record.
  • Existing Ditch Profile – Field survey will be performed to provide a representative cross section of the existing ditch.
  • Historical Ditch Profile: - Soil cores and field observations will be used, along with any existing plans of the ditch to determine the historical ditch profile, including length, depth, width and placement of spoil deposits.
  • Site plan profile - A profile of the planned ditch maintenance project including length, depth, width, and cubic feet of spoil displaced.
  • Wetland type - A brief general description such as, Maple swamp, low branch swamp, grassy swamp, etc.
  • Sediment Loads – Water samples may be taken to determine the suspended sediment loads prior to, during, and post maintenance.  
  • Stream Velocity – The stream velocity may be measured and recorded to determine the rate of flow when possible. 
  • Soil profile - Soil cores may be tested for composition to determine the ratio of granular to cohesive soils. Soils also may be used to identify hydric soils in order to delineate wetland boundaries according to USACE and state methodologies.


PROPERTY OWNERS PERMISSION - Secure written permission from property owners or persons legally in control of property prior to starting work on site. Standard permission form will provide purpose and brief description of project and any mutually agreed upon conditions.


NOTIFICATION - Notify property owners, abutters (where applicable), appropriate authorities and/or agencies and post site thirty days in advance of starting work and supply with the following:


  • Standard form letter outlining intended restoration project (property owner)
  • 2 notification forms seeking permission for access- agreed stipulations may be included here (property owner)
  • Site map - A copy of an Assessors map indicating the area of proposed ditch maintenance and location of property parcels (property owner & agencies - agencies receive a topographic map also)
  • Topographic maps and aerial photographs (agencies)
  • Letter describing proposed work and related legal justification


AGENCIES TO NOTIFY (if using mechanized equipment):


  • Municipal Conservation Commission (30 day minimum prior notice e-mail w/receipt requested or letter)
  • Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Wetlands and Waterways (30 day minimum prior notice-mail w/receipt requested)
  • Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (if proposed work will occur in a protected habitat shown in the Natural Heritage Atlas, email and wait for letter of permission to conduct work)
  • U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers  email w/ receipt requested)
  • Dig Safe (all excavator restorations projects – Internet notification system)
  • Local Departments of Public Works (where applicable)


SITE WORK - All on site work will conform to the following criteria:


  • Site - A site will not be in area of outstanding Resource Waters, Area of Critical Concern or in endangered species areas without prior approval or agreement from the proper authorities.
  • Impact - A project will not result in a combined temporary and permanent impact of more than 5,000 square feet of bordering vegetated wetlands (BVW) unless it is exempt from USACE regulations.
  • Timing - A project using the low pressure excavator must occur between July 1 and October 1 unless it is exempt from USACE regulations.
  • Access/egress - It may be necessary to clear a path to transport equipment and personnel to and from a site. Routes of access and egress will be chosen to minimize impact. Cleared brush may be placed on the path as a mat.
  • Site prep/brushing - The clearing of brush will not exceed fifteen (15) feet on either side of the ditch for machine work, and five feet for handwork. Preferably cutting will occur on one side of the ditch. Cut brush will be neatly stacked beyond the range of spoil deposition, chipped or removed from the site. Brush will not be buried in the wetland. Spoil deposited on brush will be minimized. Only those trees and brush that may impede the flow of water or jeopardize the operation and safety of equipment and personnel will be cut.
  • Excavations – All excavation work will be done pursuant to the specifications provided by the Wetland Project Coordinator or his/her designee. As much as possible, a ditch will not be excavated beyond its original or previously maintained dimension and course as indicated by the existing physical conditions of the ditch and the historical perspective of residents, abutters, municipal and/or state officials. In the event this is not feasible, a ditch will be excavated to confirm to the hydrology of the site. Principles of stream morphology will be taken into consideration to the greatest degree possible. The Wetland Project Coordinator or his/her designee will visit the project sites during restoration to ensure that all specifications are followed.
  • Excavator - Excavation will be done by a licensed operator using a suitable low ground pressure tracked vehicle not to exceed three pounds per square inch (3 psi).
  • Ditch bottom - the grade and depth of the ditch bottom will not exceed the previously established grade. In the absence of an established grade the ditch bottom grade will be determined by the dimensions necessary to achieve sufficient flow. Depth is not to exceed bottom grade of the nearest down stream discharge.
  • Down stream - Excavation will begin or end at a point of adequate discharge.
  • Spoil - Whenever possible excavated spoils will be deposited off the wetland onto an immediately adjacent upland edge and graded. Spoils deposited on a wetland will be spread as thinly and evenly as possible, not to exceed a depth of six inches above grade on alternating banks of the ditch so as not to impede lateral flow. Deposition of naturally occurring mineral spoils will be kept to a minimum and should not exceed 30% of the total spoil displaced. When conditions dictate spoils be deposited on one side of the ditch only, spoils will be randomly breached at appropriate intervals to promote lateral flow.
  • Road sand runoff - whenever possible road sand run off will be deposited off the wetland or removed from the site.
  • Soil erosion & sediment control – Measures will be undertaken to reduce negative impacts from soil erosion or excess sedimentation associated with maintenance work. Measures will include but are not limited to; placement of hay bales or check dams in front of downstream culverts, lining unstable banks with hay bales or vegetative mats to prevent slippage of slopes, planting indigenous grasses to promote slope stability, and leaving riparian zones intact wherever possible. CMMCP will coordinate with other agencies, town departments and/or property owners whenever possible to implement effective and reasonable soil erosion measures.
  • Posting - Whenever possible, ditch maintenance sites using mechanized equipment will be posted with all-weather “Ditch Maintenance” signs one week prior to commencement, and signs will remain for a minimum of two weeks after completion of a project. These signs will have information such as our name, address, phone number, and website address in clear, prominent letters.


CMMCP will work with the US Army Corps of Engineers where appropriate in order to establish the proper set of guidelines for ditch maintenance work. In addition to the above guidelines, we have the following input from the Army Corps of Engineers:


  • Mosquito control work performed during the low flow period (July1-Oct.1) with less than 5,000 square feet of temporary and combined wetland impact is covered by the Programmatic General Permit.
  • Restoration work done outside of these parameters must be on sites that previously existed and were maintained prior to July 1, 1977 (Clean Waters Act).
  • There must have been no change in use of the wetland after July 1, 1977.
  • Restoration work that removes all spoil from the wetland is exempt from Army Corps regulation.
  • All other work requires additional permitting (Category 1 or IP).
  • CMMCP must have adequate information in the files regarding the background and legal justification for the project.


If CMMCP needs a determination on a particular site, we will notify the Corps, send them an 8 ˝" X 11" site plan, and they will provide a verification of maintenance upon visitation and approval.


Information on mosquito control in Massachusetts and the Army Corps of Engineers can be found here: - click “Regulatory/Permitting”. The following information below has been excerpted from this website:


¨     Mosquito Ditching Guidance Letter (.pdf 213kb) – this letter, dated July 14, 2004, is from Christine Godfrey, Chief, Regulatory Division to Lealdon Langley, Wetlands Protection Program, Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection.

¨     Initial Public Notice (.pdf 146kb) – the reissuance Public Notice of the Department of the Army Massachusetts Programmatic General Permit (PGP), dated January 24, 2005

¨     Programmatic General Permit (.pdf 2.65mb) – this document expedites review of minimal impact work in coastal and inland waters and wetlands within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Effective Date: January 20, 2004 – Expiration Date: January 20, 2010



POST MONITORING – Post-Monitoring of restoration sites is an integral part of our water management program. The photographic records aid in the development of future ditch restoration and maintenance procedures, and provide a means to track the recovery time of a particular site. All sites are databased, and information includes dates of site visits, all information pertaining to hand cleaning work, and mosquito breeding data. Such information enables CMMCP to track the efficacy of our restoration projects and allows for improvement of prevention methods for mosquito breeding sites.


All completed ditch maintenance projects will be inspected immediately upon completion and randomly monitored for a period at least two (2) years to ensure that desired results are attained and no significant adverse impact occurs as a direct result of ditch maintenance activities.  Any problems that may occur will be immediately rectified.


  • Site review - Periodically review the site to observe current conditions and record any problems that may impede the flow of water or cause negative impact and report to appropriate authority.
  • Photographic record - from numerous pre-chosen, fully recoverable stations once annually for two consecutive years during period of peak vegetation.
  • Ditch - observe stabilization and condition of ditch.
  • Vegetation - observe vegetation recovery in areas of spoil deposition, and make note of the general site impact that may or may not be apparent from the restoration work. Monitor for any occurrences of invasive plant species.
  • Mosquito breeding - randomly check for mosquito breeding
  • Sediment Loads – Water samples may be taken during maintenance and post maintenance to determine suspended sediment loads.  Monitoring suspended sediment loads will help to identify if problems exist with erosion, and will ensure that pollution from excess sedimentation does not result downstream from a restoration project. 
  • Stream Velocity – The stream velocity may be measured post maintenance to determine any changes in the rate of flow.  The data can be used to monitor the efficiency of the restored ditch, and can assist in the determination of need for future maintenance.  The data can also be used to monitor effects that may occur as a result of increased flow to rivers and streams that the tributary feeds into. 


After an excavation is complete, CMMCP field crews routinely hand clean the ditch in order to prevent any blockages from causing flooding or breeding problems. This also allows the ditch to remain functional for longer periods of time without having to re-excavate. CMMCP will continually improve upon its restoration practices and guidelines in order to provide an efficient service with low-level environmental impacts.




CMMCP recognizes the threat of invasive species and the deterioration they cause to wetlands. We strive to minimize the impacts we have in the spread of these species types. All mechanized equipment is sanitized after completion of a project and prior to the arrival of this equipment to the site of another restoration area. Sanitization will include but is not limited to:


  • Steam cleaning the undercarriage of the equipment.
  • Removal of all dirt and debris from the equipment trailer and other transportation devices.
  • Other cleaning & procedures that are deemed necessary.


If work occurs in an area with small patches of invasive species, the excavator will make every attempt not to go through the patches to prevent spreading seeds and plant material to the rest of the site. Also, manageable patches may be hand pulled before excavation to ensure that they do not spread and to benefit the health of the wetland. If necessary, we may also employ techniques such as mulching the embankment where the spoil has been spread and seeding with native grass species.


Invasive species control is not a program that is undertaken by CMMCP at this time; however we are willing to coordinate with local and state officials to curb the spread of these wetland species if it falls under the scope of the restoration guidelines contained herein.



Phragmites australis – click for more information




Lythrum salicaria – click for more information





A full project summary will be drafted upon completion of all mechanized maintenance work, and at least six (6) months of post monitoring.  The project summary will include all pertinent information on the completed project including reasons for maintenance, the specifications of the completed work, and any other special conditions that may have been incorporated as part of the project.  In addition to the project summary, attachments will include:


·       DEP and Conservation Commission Notification Letters

·       Project Site Plan and Topographic Maps

·       Project Master and Permission Slips from Property Owners

·       Assessor’s Map of Project

·       Before and After Photographs of Project

·       Dig Safe Ticket

·       Any Correspondence Related to the Project

·       Survey Information (including stream profiles, soil and water analysis, site history, breeding history, etc.)

·       Back-up Materials


In addition, all jobs completed after January 1, 2005 will have a project completion form that will outline technical field staff who worked on the project, total footages of work completed, and a brief explanation of the project. 


Information on each project completed by CMMCP can be found in the Water Management central file, located at the main office at 111 Otis St., Northborough, MA 01532.  It may be possible to obtain a full report on a project if the request is approved by the Executive Director and submitted in writing. 



CMMCP will not perform any construction work, including creation of ditch systems or ponds that do not currently exist in wetlands, installation of culverts, roadway work, etc. 


CMMCP will not be responsible for construction of mitigation measures (BMP’s) to treat nonpoint source run-off.  CMMCP supports the use of BMP’s for water quality, and will be willing to assist in determination of need for stormwater BMP’s, but will not be solely responsible for construction or implementation.  


CMMCP can refuse to do restoration work if the presence of the beaver dam renders maintenance in the area infeasible or imprudent. CMMCP will work with local and state departments to determine adverse impacts to property or public health concerns caused by beavers. CMMCP may remove beaver dams on a limited case by case basis. However, the town will be responsible for obtaining BOH and Conservation Commission permits, removing the excavated material from site, and arranging any trapping or beaver control structures for ongoing control. Other features of the site will also be taken into consideration before CMMCP agrees to remove a beaver dam.


CMMCP will not be responsible for identification of water quality issues. CMMCP will notify the DEP and local conservation agencies of all water management work to be performed. It will be the responsibility of the local commissions and DEP to notify CMMCP of any issues with hazardous materials or otherwise sensitive properties that should not be altered. In addition, CMMCP will notify the National Heritage and endangered species program to ensure protection of endangered species habitat. CMMCP will be happy to accompany any representative of an external agency to a maintenance site; however it will be the responsibility of the external agency to notify CMMCP of any outstanding issues that may affect maintenance work prior to commencement of work. CMMCP will not be liable for any work performed in a sensitive area if an external organization was properly informed of the work, with 30 days notice prior to initiation, and the external organization failed to provide relevant information in regards to the existing site condition.


CMMCP will not perform any “special interest work”, where it appears that an owner or agency is using the CMMCP to perform ditch work beyond the scope of CMMCP’s guidelines.  Issues that CMMCP will not be responsible for alleviating include flooding issues or undersized culverts.  CMMCP will not perform work where site features are not conducive to the long-term success of the project. 


Work will not be performed in areas where construction is proposed or proceeding, where litigation is pending, or where there appears to be conflicting interests between property owners or between property owners and authorities.  CMMCP will also postpone a restoration project if a property is for sale to allow the new owners the opportunity to decide if they will grant permission for this project.


CMMCP will not engage in any work that is not able to be conducted within its legal guidelines.  CMMCP is subject to US Army Corps regulation and certain state laws.  CMMCP is exempt from the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act, but still attempts to work with and respect the wishes of Conservation Commissions.


The ditch restoration work performed by CMMCP is exempt from the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act, as outlined in the following regulations (click on the links for the full text):


1. MGL, Chapter 131, Section 40 of the Wetland Protection Act,


  • Subsection 15.  “The riverfront area shall not apply to any mosquito control work done under the provisions of clause (36) of section five of chapter five of chapter forty of chapter two hundred and fifty-two or any special act…:


  • Subsection 24.  “The provisions of this section shall not apply to any mosquito control work done under the provisions of clause (36) of section five of chapter forty of chapter two hundred and fifty-two or any special act…”


2. MGL, Chapter 131, Section 40A. Protection of Inland Wetlands


  • “No such order shall prohibit, restrict, or regulate the exercise or performance of the powers and duties conferred or imposed by law upon…the state reclamation board of any mosquito control or other project operating under or authorized by chapter two hundred fifty-two.”


3. MGL, Chapter 40, Section 8C. Conservation Commission; Establishment; Powers; Duties; Conservation Fund,


  • “No action taken under this section shall affect the powers and duties of the State Reclamation Board or any mosquito control or other project operating under or authorized by Chapter two hundred fifty-two.”


Although the ditch restoration work performed by CMMCP is exempt from the Mass. Wetland Protection Act and Conservation Commission review, CMMCP understands and supports the environmental, ecological, and socioeconomic benefits of the state’s wetlands.  The CMMCP notifies DEP and the local conservation commission at least 30 days prior to commencement of every project to allow the agencies the opportunity to survey the sites and provide comment.  The CMMCP is committed to working with DEP and the local conservation commissions, and is willing to postpone, alter, or even cancel ditch restoration work if the agencies have justification for doing so.


A Best Management Practices Manual (BMP) is in development and may alter, change or modify the scope of these guidelines.