Turn the Tide is a collaborative program to restore the ecological health of the estuaries and watersheds of the Town of Dartmouth, Massachusetts. There are four partners in this ambitious four-year program that began in 2002: The Town of Dartmouth; The University of Massachusetts- Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology; The Coalition for Buzzards Bay and the Lloyd Center for the Environment. Each partner brings to the project expertise and assets that complement the strengths of the others.
Turn the Tide was designed to address the perceived and actual long-term decline of the estuaries and watersheds of Dartmouth. Evidence of this decline includes elevated bacterial levels in streams and bays, excess macroalgae (seaweeds) in bays, decline in water clarity, and losses of native aquatic vegetation and thus animal habitat. During the first two and one half years, the project incorporates a number of scientific assessments of existing conditions in the estuaries and their watersheds. The assessments include both repeated and continuous measurements of stream flow, of stream and bay water quality, measurement of the tidal circulation patterns and surveys of the number and distribution of estuarine animals and plants. These varied but integrated measurements are designed to develop an adequate foundation of data from the estuaries so that we can understand and quantify their current health.
The project will use the collected data to create computer models that will describe how water and contaminants are generated, retained and flow through these aquatic systems. The models will then be used to predict the effects of a range of management solutions that could be implemented to improve existing conditions. In the final year of Turn the Tide, a series of public meetings will be held to explain the findings about the present day conditions, then provide a menu of long-term actions to improve the ecological health of the estuaries and watersheds. In the public meetings, Town residents and Town officials can evaluate, discuss and choose appropriate and effective alternatives for implementation.
The project also incorporates two other components that are critical to any long-term restoration plan. First, Turn the Tide education professionals are designing a curriculum for Dartmouth and area 5th grade science classes that incorporates the concepts of a watershed approach to estuarine management. Second, the project incorporates regular newsletters and informational meetings to inform the residents about these important natural resources.