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Our partners at the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration (MA DER) are working to restore miles of streams from old and failing dams which can pose threats to public safety and ecological functions.
Dams segment the rivers they occupy, and when placed in a series (as is common in New England), the river begins to function more as a series of ponds, rather than a river. Dams typically block fish and wildlife movement, slow the natural movement of sediment, and increase downstream water temperatures. Few human activities have the potential to alter a river as dramatically as the building of a dam. In addition, most dams in New England were built to power the Industrial Revolution. This means they are very old and usually do not serve their original purpose. As time progresses, these dams can become a serious liability to the owner and a risk to the downstream community if not maintained.
According to data from the MA DER, there are at least 190 dams in the Taunton River Watershed. But recently, with the support from a number of partners including Save the Bay and Mass Audubon, some of those dams have been taken down to restore ecological functions and eliminate public safety threats.
Most recently, in the winter of 2018, crews began dismantling the Barstowe’s Pond Dam on the Cotley River in Taunton. The Cotley is a five-mile-long brook that empties into the Wild and Scenic portion of the Taunton River. This dam blocked river herring and other fish from migrating upstream for nearly 200 years. The partner team for this project includes the Taunton Development Corporation, NOAA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
To learn more about dam removals and the work of MA DER, visit: https://www.mass.gov/river-restoration-dam-removal
National Estuaries Week is the nation’s largest celebration of coasts and estuaries. Restore America’s Estuaries, in partnership with the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association and the Association of National Estuary Programs, serves as the national leader and coordinator for National Estuaries Week (now in its 29th year).
The United States Senate approved a resolution declaring National Estuaries Week reaffirming “the support of the Senate for estuaries, including the scientific study, preservation, protection, and restoration of estuaries.” Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) sponsored the resolution and was joined by the following cosponsors: Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Cassidy (R-LA), Cochran (R-MS), Collins (R-ME), Coons (D-DE), Feinstein (D-CA), Harris (D-CA), Hassan (D-NH), Hirono (D-HI), King (I-ME), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Murphy (D-CT), Murray (D-WA), Nelson (D-FL), Portman (R-OH), Reed (D-RI), Shaheen (D-NH), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warner (D-VA), Warren (D-MA), and Wyden (D-OR).
- See the press release here.
The National Estuary Program is an EPA place-based program to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance. Currently, 28 estuaries located along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts and in Puerto Rico are designated as estuaries of national significance. Here is what you can do to help our estuaries:
A group of Professor Paul Mathisen’s students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) teamed up with the Town of Norton and the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) to help with engineering designs for the Walker Street culverts. The project analyzed the stream constriction of the Wading River at the Walker Street crossing which floods and creates a large downstream scour pool which inhibits fish passage. The team evaluated options and recommended to replace the old culvert with an open-bottom, precast concrete arch culvert design to best ease fish passage and mitigate flooding.
Jennifer Carlino, Conservation Agent of the Town of Norton, MA stated, “the Town of Norton is so pleased with the work that Julia Pershken and Jackson Krupnik have done. This area has experienced major flooding due to the inadequacies of the existing culvert. Norton does not have an engineering department and has struggled for many years to identify design funding. We were able to connect with Professor Mathisen from WPI through local environmental champion Bill Napolitano from SRPEDD. I’m so impressed with their level of work of this partnership; Norton is finally able to move this project forward.”
This collaboration was assisted by the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program as Professor Mathisen serves on our Science Advisory Committee and Bill Napolitano serves on our Steering Committee. See the full report prepared by Julia Pershken and Jackson Krupnik here: https://web.wpi.edu/Pubs/E-project/Available/E-project-032417-151019/
The Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC) has completed their Woonasquatucket Watershed Restoration Education project funded by the Estuary Program. WRWC engaged students in Providence schools about the Woonasquatucket River and watershed. Part of that project is called “Fish in the Classroom,” an elementary school program that includes setting up a tank with young trout in the classrooms and teaching the students environmental and science education. A special part of this project involved Kassi Archambault, Education Director of the WRWC, helping students create a community based, environmental project. For this part of the project, the students worked with local artist, Brent Bachelder of Club Neopolsi Creations to create and paint colorful and meaningful messages about stormwater.
These elementary students made an impact on their school community through painting murals on the storm drains. Students not only enjoyed their contribution of teaching others, but are now well versed in discussing stormwater pollution and prevention to their peers and parents. Another way the elementary students took environmental action is through raising trout in their classroom, then releasing them into the Woonasquatucket River.
Read the EcoRI news article here.
The Halifax Board of Health is advancing a project to identify, map, and prioritize stormwater outfalls and other sources discharging to the East and West Monponsett Ponds. Over 20 outfalls are contributing pollutants to these ponds resulting in blue-green algae blooms in West Monponsett Pond. This pollution has resulted in closed beaches, fish kills, and warnings about the health effects of cyanobacteria. The Board of Health will identify the highest ranking outfalls and will develop preliminary designs for best management practices and low impact development projects to control these sources. The partners on this project include the Monponsett Watershed Association and the Massachusetts Division of Ecologic Restoration.
This project was funded through EPA’s Southeast New England Program. See the poster below by the Town of Halifax. See also Frank Carini’s article in ecoRI highlighting the Halifax project.
In upper Narragansett Bay, Save The Bay completed a report on excess nutrients by experimenting with the use of ribbed mussels for bioextraction (Read the study here), a process that relies on the filter-feeders capacity to remove plankton and other nutrients from the water column. Nitrogen pollution in the bay leads to an overproduction of algae, which can reduce light infiltration, smother organisms, and lower local oxygen levels in the water when it decomposes.
The use of shellfish for restoration in polluted waters has been problematic because local people may eat contaminated shellfish, risking illness. However, by using ribbed mussels it circumvents this problem. This project was funded through EPA’s Southeast New England Program, see the poster below. (Also see a story on this project in the Watershed Counts 2015 Report).