Westport River Watershed Alliance
River News - September, 2013
Thanks for taking the time to check out our newsletter! It's been a busy summer here at WRWA. We thank you for your interest and your continued support.
Watershed Update
Matt Patrick, Executive Director

Hix Bridge:  

At our request, Representative Paul Schmidt and Senator Michael Rodrigues have put an amendment into the Environmental Bond Bill to fund a portion of the cost to remove the granite blocks just North of Hix Bridge that are blocking tidal flow and building up a large reservoir of sediment. We are working in cooperation with the Town of Westport Shellfish Department, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.


In addition we are making progress on the Hix Bridge oyster study. We will use the evidence from the study to show that increased tidal flow is good for oysters. Currently, the oyster population North of Hix bridge is not healthy and not growing as large as they could be. Their shells are thin and very weak. Removal of the blocks will increase tidal flow and should restore the historically large oyster beds North of Hix Bridge. We will be working with Shellfish Constable, Gary Sherman to permit and install the cages that will store oysters at different levels. One cage will be placed in an area of good flow and the other cage will go in an area of poor tidal flow. Growth rates of the two groups will be compared after a year.


The hearing for the Environmental Bond Bill is scheduled for Wednesday the 18th at 11 AM. I'll be there. Also, there is a great article in the September 9th issue of the Westport Shorelines, "Bridge Debris Clogs River." It's an excellent description of the project and a great tribute to an old shellfisherman, Jimmy "Crab" Manchester, who was helping us with the project.


Stormwater Runoff Project at Westport's Old County Road School Complex: The 319 grant funded work  to control polluted runoff from the Town's Middle School Complex made great gains this summer. Please read the article below for more information and a volunteer opportunity on October 5.  


Drift Road/Sam Tripp Brook Project: The Selectmen voted to accept a grant from the Buzzards Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to hire an engineer to design a fix to storm water runoff problems. The biggest problem was the water coming from the South side of the Drift Road running unabated North into the brook.


The Community Septic Management Program (CSMP): The CSMP has run through its first allotment of money for the low interest loans provided to people who want to update their septic systems. Ten families received CSMP loans from the Board of Health. Seven more families have their applications in the works.


Sustainable Rules Required by the Westport Board of Health: The Board of Health now requires engineers to certify site plans are in compliance with Westport's storm water regulations.

Beach Avenue  Brings Groups Together
Betsy White, Advocacy Director
Beach Avenue -  Image from East Bay Newspapers.


After two weeks of controversy, the discussion about the details of re- opening Beach Avenue to vehicles has finally reached a level of civility and cooperation among many of the groups concerned. Conversations have started regarding how to best make this road and barrier beach area benefit not only town residents but the environment as well. The priorities of these talks are to minimize the impacts on the neighborhood and the ecology of the area while providing public access to all residents so that they can enjoy the beauty and resources of this locale. Beach Avenue is situated on a barrier beach and runs parallel to the shoreline, with a portion of it running through the middle of a dune system. This area has been a subject for debate for many years, and it has been so because it offers so many things to so many people. WRWA has followed this recent situation closely, keeping in daily contact with Town staff and visiting the area frequently as work progressed. Before work was even started, information was gathered by the Town's Conservation Agent and WRWA concerning ecological habitat and resource area designations, permit details, and state and federal requirements ( see WRWA letter to the Board of Selectmen). Beach Avenue was also professionally surveyed when questions arose in order to determine the correct widths and location of the road. Protection of this sensitive area has been and will continue to be utmost in everybody's mind.

Beach Avenue is a public Chapter 90 Program road, meaning that is recognized by and maintained with money provided for by the Mass Department of Transportation. The Town has historically cleared the road after major storms. For this latest clearing, the first portion of Beach Avenue, of which the Town owns a 40 foot width, was only cleared to 34 feet, preserving much of the existing dune system. This is the section that is being proposed to provide access and parking for the Town-owned beach property. The remaining portion leading up to the Knubble is a 30 foot width, and was cleared to only 22 feet. This section is the most sensitive, as it is part of a low-lying barrier beach and potential habitat for piping plovers. Because of this, the Conservation Commission and the Board of Selectmen subsequently agreed to delay further work in this area and allow time to consider how to best proceed  

This past Monday, representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) visited the Beach Avenue area to view the work that has been done on the road as well as to review potential future actions. Tara Martin, Westport's Conservation Agent, and Chris Gonsalves, Westport's Highway Department Foreman, had the opportunity to explain the specifics of the work done on the road and to get advice on how to proceed in the most sensitive areas of the location. DEP's Liz Kouloheras and Jim Mahala voiced approval for the work done so far on the 40' road and also commended Tara for doing due diligence regarding the research she did before starting the work. They also asked that the Town not proceed further until a Beach Management Plan and new Order of Conditions (OOC) specific to Beach Avenue be created and approved. Tara will be working with numerous State and local officials and groups, including WRWA, to produce the most appropriate protection plan and OOC. Residents will have the opportunity to voice their opinions regarding the documents in public hearings.


Recently, a plan for the area has been floated by a number of concerned groups and individuals which may help to minimize the impacts on and maximize the benefits of this Beach Avenue project. Details of the plan have yet to be worked out, but essentially it would be a cooperative effort between the Town, the Westport Land Conservation Trust, neighborhood groups, abutters, and land owners to leave much of the easterly expanse as a barrier beach and have it accessible to all who want to visit and enjoy it. The barrier system would continue to provide protection and habitat; the town beach and the Knubble would be available to all residents, and along with the management plan, the natural resources would be preserved and managed appropriately.


The opening of Beach Avenue has not been an easy issue. However, it has raised awareness of the need to balance out the protection of our natural resources with the rights of the public to enjoy these resources. WRWA, through its mission "to restore, protect, celebrate, and sustain the natural resources of the Westport River and its watershed" is constantly seeking to achieve that balance, and we welcome respectful and relevant dialogue and cooperation to accomplish our mission.

Coastsweep - Beach Clean Up - Saturday September 28
Join us for a Beach Clean-up Sept. 28


In September, thousands of people will descend on beaches, lakes and streams all over the world to clean trash and debris on land and under water. Volunteers of all ages and from every continent will form the largest one day volunteer event on the behalf of clean oceans and waterways-the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Since 1986, over five million volunteers in 123 countries have participated in the ICC and cleaned 130,000 miles of shoreline.


The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) and the Urban Harbors Institute (UHI) have teamed up to make a statewide effort engaging thousands of volunteers to clean up the Massachusetts coastline. Volunteers do more than collect the trash from the shores. They also record what they find and identify the activities that caused the debris. The Ocean Conservancy uses this information to help shape ocean policy and to educate the public. Westport volunteers have found that cigarettes, balloons, remnants from packaged food and beverage products make up the largest percentage of debris.


If you are interested in volunteering, meet at the parking lot of Cherry and Webb Beach (Westport Town Beach)  at 10:00 AM - Noon, Saturday the 28th of September. We will supply gloves, bags, and data cards. Come join in the fun of this worthwhile endeavor. For more information call WRWA at 508-636-3016.


Polluted Runoff Reduced Thanks to New Raingardens at Westport Middle School
Roberta Carvalho, Science Director

Middle School Raingardens

 filled with stormwater

This summer WRWA staff, the Westport Highway Department and engineers from the Norfolk Ram Group worked together to create more raingardens to clean up and slow down polluted 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.  Many thanks to the Westport Highway Department for all their work especially Chris Gonsalves, Scott Boyd, Quentin Lord, Tony Medieros, Andrew Sousa, Wayne Cinquini, Richard Anctil, and Scott Urban. 


The latest work is partially complete and will slow down stormwater from the roofs and parking lots of the Westport Middle School Complex with stormwater 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 an
d are absorbed by plant roots or treated through chemical processes in the soil.
Volunteers will be needed on Saturday October 5 from 10 am to noon to help plant the raingardens. More information about volunteer opportunities will be coming soon.


WRWA Summer Programs Make a SPLASH!
Shelli Costa, Education Director
This group is all smiles during WRWA's summer program.

The Westport River Watershed Alliance hosted our 16th year of summer science programs.  The sessions teach about the importance of the Westport River and all of the creatures that call the River home.  This year we reached over 100 participants from ages 3-16.  Participants had a chance to discover the plants of the dunes, local shellfish, flounder, puffer fish, squid and more throughout the 8 weeks of summer program sessions.  We had a wonderful time sharing what we know about the Westport River Watershed and had a great time meeting all of our future stewards.


We send out a big thanks to the Westport Yacht Club for letting the summer programs use their indoor space during rainy days and Osprey Sea Kayak for leading our kayaking programs. many thanks to BayCoast Bank for sponsoring our intern program - thanks to our interns for the summer Caitlyn Riley & Nina Santos. Great job to our leaders in training: Max Colt, Aidan Corey, and Nick and Lindsay Cornell. See everyone next summer. We are also grateful to Dr. Hood from Westport Primary Care Partnership for her role as health care consultant.
Cecil Smith Landfill Update
Betsy White, Advocacy Director
Location of the landfill off Old Fall River Road in Dartmouth.

Recent decisions by the Dartmouth Conservation Commission and the Dartmouth Select Board have effectively slowed down the push by Boston Environmental Corporation (BEC) to allow their project to cap the Cecil Smith Landfill to move forward. This project is enormous in scope and provides very little assurance about the protection of environmental and public health. In mid-August the Conservation Commission denied the project based on lack of information supplied by the applicant. This included limited alternative plan analyses, inadequate groundwater testing, and lack of wetland protection measures. At the same time, Town Counsel for Dartmouth, upon approval by the Select Board, sent a letter to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEP) stating the Town's concerns regarding the proposed project and described possible legal responses by the Town if this project is approved by DEP. The letter mentioned, among other things, the historical lack of enforcement on the illegal landfill by DEP; the use of "semi-contaminated" soil as capping material; the huge extent of the project, and the lack of accurate financial information provided by BEC regarding their profit margin, which the Town claims could be as high as 57%. The deficiency of sampling data and information regarding landfill material was also mentioned, as was the need for a comprehensive site assessment prior to any project start.


At this point, the Town of Dartmouth is ready and willing to fight to prevent this massive capping project from occurring. Simply put, Dartmouth would like to see DEP impose its prior enforcement orders against the landfill owner, and have the landfill capped in compliance with Massachusetts requirements for contaminated landfills using clean, uncontaminated soil. Thanks to the diligence of the residents of the communities in the watershed who voiced their concerns, including WRWA, the proposed project is being carefully considered and scrutinized by DEP. We applaud the actions of the Town of Dartmouth to protect their citizens and their environment. DEP is the state agency "responsible for ensuring clean air and water, the safe management of toxics and hazards, the recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, the timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills, and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources." We hope that they follow this mission and work with the Town of Dartmouth to find a viable and reasonable solution to this landfill dilemma.


For more information, please visit the website for the SouthCoast Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow: www.nopollutionsolution.org or contact Betsy White at b.white@wrwa.com


WRWA Gala Success
Sally Ann Ledbetter, Gala Chair

WRWA's 2013 Summer Gala -

Days of Old....When Rum Was Gold

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.  -Henry Ford
And I declare the gala a success!  We are happy that we exceeded the budget projection for revenue.  We are noticing our event reaching the attention and interest of a more diverse crowd.  We are happy about the many corporate and business sponsors that support all of our programs and events. 
And to all the Bootleggers, Pirates, and Smugglers....YO HO HO! Your extra support allows WRWA's mission for cleaner water in the watershed to prevail!
It is truly bittersweet that this is my swan song for chairing the event.  The incredible dedication of donors, merchants, artists, and the creativity and dedication of many volunteers has taught me what it is to be an integral part of a community pulling together for progress and success, and that makes me happy.
Some interesting facts:  
  • 470 attendees
  • 15 cases of glass recycled
  • 9 bags of composted trash
  • 3 bags of regular trash
  • Several pounds of food donated to Westport council on aging
  • Over 60 volunteers 
  • And a terrific staff!
The graciousness and indulgence of the property owners and neighbors allowing us to gently trample the vast lawn, enjoy the vistas, providing one of the most spectacular venue, thank you. Those two small words are the tip of an iceberg of appreciation I have especially toward the committee and volunteers... Kudos to all.
Happy Trails
Tom Schmitt, President, WRWA Board of Directors


Reluctantly, the WRWA board of directors recently accepted the resignation of our Secretary, Jonathan Stevens, who over the summer moved with his spouse, Peggy, and their Irish setter to take on new professional challenges in Virginia. Since March of 2005, the WRWA has been privileged to enjoy Jonathan Stevens' collegiality and leadership.  Serving as Treasurer from 2006 through 2008, Jonathan oversaw unprecedented   growth in both operating revenue and endowment.  And from 2011 until his recent departure, he was an able and creative scribe, not only framing meeting minutes accurately, thoughtfully, promptly and briefly, but also serving as wise counselor at board and executive committee meetings.  For his eight years of contribution to the Westport River Watershed Alliance, we will be forever grateful.  We send Jonathan and Peggy our heartiest wishes for success, good health and happiness.   We will miss his wisdom, thoughtfulness and dignity. 

Many Thanks to Our Corporate Supporters

Lees Martket
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