River News - November 2012
Westport River Watershed Alliance

River Fall  
Thanks for taking the time to check out our newsletter. We thank you for your interest and your continued support.

Support the WRWA Annual Fund Drive 

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When asked about what they thought of WRWA, a few of our members gave us these responses:


Steve Fors, Town Moderator, boater and fisherman: "Natural resources can't speak for themselves, so someone has to. The WRWA gives voice to those resources that are so important to Westport."


Charlotte Metcalf, long-time resident and major supporter of the River Road Herring ditch project: "The WRWA provides a sense of community, the place that brings people together to create an alliance to move forward protection of what is special."


Paul Schmid, State Representative and former Selectman: "If the WRWA could do just one thing, it should make the working River a place that can again contribute economically to the region."


Read more in your Annual Appeal letter that will arrive soon in your mail. WRWA's Annual Appeal is a great way to make a year-end gift to the only environmental group that is working to clean up and protect the watershed with "shovel in the ground" projects. Remember that we can't protect this one hundred square mile watershed without your financial help, so please give generously.


Click the button below to make an Annual Fund Drive donation now.




Thank You.

WRWA Tackles Chronic Pollution of the Upper West Branch of the River 

Matt Patrick, Executive Director
Upper West Branch of the Westport River.


The Board of Directors of the Westport River Watershed Alliance voted at their last meeting to make a significant investment in determining the problems that have closed shellfish beds in the upper half of the West Branch of theWestportRiversince 2009. The Board voted to enter into a contract with the Horsley Witten Group, who are recognized experts in the field of stormwater runoff. Board President, Sally Ann Ledbetter was pleased with the vote saying, "Thanks to generous contributions to our Watershed Improvement Fund, we are able to make this important contribution toward identifying and seeking remedies for River contamination. The project will also have a positive economic impact onWestportand the surrounding communities."


Horsley Witten will prepare a computer modeling analysis of land uses and pathogen or bacteria sources in the area. The analysis will rely on the EPA's Protocol for Developing Pathogen total maximum daily loads (TMDLs).


Executive Director, Matt Patrick, said, "We have been doing this piecemeal for a couple of years now. Finding one source of the bacteria will not be enough to open up the entire area closed to shellfishing. It's time to look at all potential sources of pollution. When we have the complete diagnosis, we will be able to engage the community to create a plan to comprehensively solve this chronic problem."

BayCoast Bank - Our Keynote Partner

Gay Gillespie, Development Director


"As a community Bank, BayCoast is invested in the wellbeing of the areas we serve, which includes advocating for and protecting our natural resources. We are proud to assist the Westport River Watershed Alliance with the wonderful work they do for Westport and the region," says Nick Christ, President and CEO of BayCoast Bank.


Over the past few years, BayCoast has become a reliable supporter of the WRWA. In addition to sponsoring our Annual Gala, they have provided grants for our summer internship program and this year served as our keynote sponsor.


BayCoast Bank, formerly Citizens-Union Savings Bank, is a mutually-owned savings bank that has been serving the South Coast since 1851. They have branches in Fall River, New Bedford, Seekonk, Somerset, Swansea, North Dighton, Fairhaven, and Tiverton, and have recently opened a new location in Westport's Central Village.   BayCoast offers customers and businesses a wide range of financial services including investment management, trust services, and insurance and brokerage services. Its affiliates include BayCoast Financial Services and Partners Insurance Group, LLC. For more information about the Bank or its services, please visit www.BayCoastBank.com or call 508-678-7641.


Thank you BayCoast Bank for your continued support and your commitment to preserving our local ecosystems.

Volunteers Plant Raingardens at Middle School Complex
Volunteers help plant raingardens at the Middle School Complex.
Roberta Carvalho, Science Director
This fall WRWA staff and volunteers, the Westport Highway Department and engineers from the Norfolk Ram Group worked together to create raingardens to clean up and slow down the stormwater runoff from roofs and parking lots at the Westport Middle School Complex.

This work is part of a multi-phase project. The Town joined the Buzzards Bay National Estuaries Program and the WRWA for assistance in competing for a section319 grant to fund the project. In Massachusetts, the 319 grant program is administered through the Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Watershed Management. This program provides communities with funds to design and build solutions to control polluted runoff from stormwater. The first phase of the project was the construction of a man-made wetland to treat road runoff from the East side of Old County Road. WRWA's watershed improvement funds were the driving force that allowed the data and plans to be completed.
Our work  enabled the Town to obtain $390,000 in state funding for the construction of the stormwater treatment solutions


The new phase of work is partially complete and will slow down stormwater from the roofs and parking lots of the Westport Middle School Complex with infiltration basins and rain gardens. Engineers estimate that the site currently contributes over 50% of the stormwater to the Old County Road drainage that flows directly into the west side of the River at the Head. 

Rain gardens improve water quality by reducing and filtering runoff. The most polluted runoff occurs in the beginning of a rain shower as water rushes over hard surfaces. This water is the first to pick up sediments and pollutants. Rain gardens catch this water before it enters the storm drainage system. Sediments and pollutants settle out of the water and are absorbed by plant roots or treated through chemical processes in the soil.

Local Students Help with Dune Restoration Project 
Students from Spencer Borden School in Fall River plant American Beachgrass in the Dunes of Cherry and Webb Beach.
Shelli Costa, Education Director

Five local schools from Fall River, Westport and Dartmouth have participated in a field study exploring the dunes at Cerry & Webb Beach in partnership with the Westport River Watershed Alliance. The field study was part of the Dune Restoration Project, which was run for the twelfth time this year.


Students learned about the unique plants of the dune ecosystem and planted approximately 2,000 American beach grass seedlings in an ongoing effort to restore an eroded section of the dunes. Participants were able to observe the results of the work classes did in year's past. More than half the plants survived and have grown and taken root in the sand. The beach grass planting builds on a dune restoration effort that was begun by local Westport resident Mr. Ben Guy over 30 years ago.


The students traveled to four different teaching stations led by Watershed Alliance staff and volunteers, where they learned about dune ecology and the unique plants found there. The goal of the project is to not only teach students natural science, but also to build a sense of stewardship among the students for the special natural communities found in Westport.  

The Dune Restoration Project is part of the Westport River Watershed Alliance's (WRWA) Watershed Education Program (WEP). Classes from Pre- K through High School participate in the WEP program. Each year students learn about different aspects of their watershed. The Westport River Watershed Alliance provides the program as a compliment to the science curriculum each grade is covering for the year. It provides a hands-on way for students to not only learn science, but also about the habitats that are in their own backyards.


Funding for the Dune Restoration Project was made possible from a Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). B-WET is an environmental education program that promotes locally relevant, experiential learning in the K-12 environment. Special thanks are also extended to foundations that support our WEP program: Helen Ellis Charitable Trust, Van Sloun Family Foundation, Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence Trust, and BayCoast Bank.

Many Thanks to Water Testing Volunteers
Catherine Williams tests oxygen levels in the River.
Roberta Carvalho, Science Director

In 1992 the Buzzards Bay Coalition's Baywatchers Program began measuring the bay water quality and the impacts of nitrogen loading in Buzzards Bay. The Baywatcher Program just finished its 20th year assessing the health of the Bay's 30 major harbors and coves from Westport around to Quissett Harbor in Falmouth and the Elizabeth islands.


In the early spring, WRWA volunteers were trained by Tony Williams from the Coalition. They collected and analyzed  water samples from eight different sites on the east and west branches of the river. From May to October they record data on weather, tide, wind, air and water temperature, salinity, turbidity and dissolved oxygen. The information  is combined with data from other samples collected in the river. This water testing data generates information on the ecological health of the river.


This scientific project would be cost prohibitive to carry out if it were not for the reliable and responsible work of the volunteers. The long running data collected over the years is vital to assist local, state, and federal officials to set priorities for the remedial and protective actions in Buzzards Bay and the Westport River.


Our thanks go out to volunteer monitors. On the East Branch: Charley Appleton, Head of Westport; Peter Kastner, Hix Bridge; Catherine Williams, Cadmans Neck; Lee Tripp, Cummings Lane; and Cindy Lees, Westport Point. On the West Branch: Ed Carey, Carey's Boat Yard;  Jim Whitin, Canoe Rock or Ben's Point; and Sally Ann Ledbetter, Charlton Wharf. We are grateful for your time and energy. 

Turn Inactive Cell Phones Into Cash for WRWA
cell phone


Recycle your old cell phone while helping WRWA raise money for our operating funds.


Cell phones are extremely popular these days and because there are so many options and new plans available, a growing surplus of used cell phones is developing. If you throw your old cell phones in the trash, these devices may leak Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Arsenic and other toxic substances into the water supply. Municipalities often incinerate their waste, instantly putting these toxic elements into the air, and they return to earth in rain water. Since life on earth depends on water, the threat is clear.


Help WRWA recycle and reuse old cell phones.  Remove all addresses from your old cell phones and bring them into the WRWA office.  When we send them into the company that recycles them we receive money in return for each phone.  Look through your closets and desk draws to find your inactive cell phone and bring them in to help the environment and WRWA.
Happy Birthday to a Historic U.S. Law

Betsy White, Advocacy Director

Enjoying the pristine beaches in Westport, MA.


The Clean Water Act (CWA) is 40 years old this year, and is an act that has had significant impact not only on environmental management but also raising society's awareness about clean water.  The CWA set a new national goal "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters". According to the EPA, before the Clean Water Act only about a third of U.S. water was safe for swimming or fishing. The country was losing up to 500,000 acres of wetlands per year, and tap water was becoming more and more tainted with chemicals. After four decades under the CWA, an estimated 65 percent of U.S. waterways now pass the fishable/swimmable test, while average wetland losses have fallen below60,000 acres per year.


The CWA seeks to make all U.S. waters "fishable and swimmable", which is how the EPA defines surface water quality. Under this law, water quality standards are developed by each state to establish pollution limits that define the allowable amount of pollutants a water body may contain and still remain healthy. This is the TMDL-Total Maximum Daily Load. Then, each state is required to classify each of their water bodies according to its desired use and evaluate the water quality of each water body. Desired uses may include drinking water, aquatic life, fishing, swimming, and boating.


Different standards may be given to different water bodies depending on how those water bodies are used. For example, marine waters that are considered to be excellent habitat for aquatic life and wildlife and are suitable for shellfish harvesting in approved areas are Class SA waters. Class SB waters are "good" habitat and are suitable for the harvesting of shellfish after they have been cleansed of impurities. If a water body is classified as being polluted, the type and source of the pollutant must be identified. Additionally, methods to reduce or eliminate the pollution must be put into place.


The Westport River has been assigned a water quality standard by the State of SA for the West Branch and SB for the East Branch. However, each branch has been assessed as being polluted, or "impaired", for both nitrogen and bacteria. Massachusetts has already established a TMDL for bacteria; the Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP) has been created to help the State determine TMDLs for nitrogen. The MEP report for the Westport River will help the Town determine the best ways to reduce nitrogen pollution.


The Clean Water Act mainly targets big, point-source pollution like sewage leaks and oil spills, and has allowed the country to make huge progress in reducing pollution from wastewater treatment plants, industry, and businesses. It is considered to be one of the most successful environmental laws ever enacted. Unfortunately, it has been less effective at reducing non-point source pollution such as fertilizers, pesticides, oil, toxic chemicals, sediment, salt, bacteria, and nutrients. Non-point sources are unconfined and hard to determine, unlike point sources that are focused and recognizable, such as drain pipes and channels. In 1987 an amendment to the CWA created a federal program that provides money to states for programs that reduce pollution from nonpoint sources. In Massachusetts, there is a Nonpoint Source Management Plan that was created to identify strategies and programs that prevent, control, and reduce pollution and help guide communities in dealing with nonpoint pollution.


The Clean Water Act is not perfect, but it is effective and powerful. It has been a life saver for the nation's water bodies, both fresh and marine. Through this act we have eliminated or greatly reduced raw sewage discharges, huge fish kills, chemical releases, oil-slicked waters, and oil-saturated beaches. Estuaries, rivers, salt marshes, lakes, and ponds have been allowed to thrive. Wetlands and coastlines are protected, drinking water is cleaner, and industrial discharges are under close scrutiny. Yet, we should not be satisfied. There is still too much "dirty water" out there, and closer to home we must still deal with our own pollution problems. But as long as we continue to recognize, appreciate, and celebrate the value and benefits of clean water, the health of the Westport River and the surface waters of our nation will continue to improve.

Feel free to contact us with any questions regarding our programs or current projects. We can be reached at 508-636-3016.
Visit Our Office -
Westport River Watershed Alliance
1151 Main Road
Westport, MA 02790

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