Westport River Watershed Alliance
River News - June, 2014
So Long for Now

Matthew Patrick, Executive Director  


It's time to say my goodbyes. As you know, I will be taking a sabbatical to run for the Plymouth and Barnstable Senate seat. At a recent meeting when I mentioned that I might not be here next year, our president Tom Schmitt, who has been my strongest advocate, said with more than a little sarcasm..., "I hope not." As a former Winchester Selectman, Tom understands the urge to run for public office. I'm confident that WRWA is in good hands.


Curt Freese, who will serve as interim director, has already shown his natural leadership abilities in his first month filling in two days a week for me. And, of course the board of directors under Tom's leadership, have focused in on the goals outlined in our strategic plan that are necessary to keep WRWA healthy and strong so WRWA can continue to carry out its mission in the years to come. Making the Head Garage our new headquarters is central to that mission.


Another tremendously beneficial project for the Town of Westport is removing the rubble from under Hix Bridge. Your state legislators, Senator Michael Rodrigues and Representative Paul Schmid, have secured a $400,000 match for this project in the Transportation Bond Bill. The Army Corps of Engineers, who will supply another $600,000 toward the project, is already communicating with Mass Highways to get the project started. The State money can be used as the Town's share for the feasibility study, a prerequisite for the project. Removing the rubble will do three things: 1) help clean the river; 2) restore the native oyster fishery; and 3) provide an efficient, low cost alternative to sewering.


The staff of WRWA are stronger than ever doing all the small and large projects necessary to keep a watershed like this alive and well. I know you will continue your support for their important work.


WRWA is a remarkable organization providing the extraordinary work necessary to protect this extraordinary resource. And none of it would be possible without the support of you, the membership, who in the end make all of it possible. Thank you all for your encouragement and support throughout my tenure here. It indeed was an honor and privilege to serve as your executive director.


WRWA Summer Programs for KIDS
What are your kids up to this summer? Join WRWA for our fun filled summer science programs.  We still have spots left.  Let your young adventurers spend some time learning and loving the outside this summer!



River Day is June 28


River Day is the Westport River Watershed Alliance's FREE family fun day to celebrate the River. River Day offers many activities and staged performances. You can even paddle up the river from Hix Bridge landing and enjoy all of the activities, especially the Live Raptor Show.


Where: Old County Road at Drift Road the Head of Westport Landing
Festivities at Landing: 10 am - 3 pm

  • 9:00 Paddlers' registration Hix Bridge Landing
  • 10:00 Paddlers take off for the Head Landing
  • 10:00 River Day exhibits and activities open at the Head Landing
  • Noon Poster awards for Westport Elementary School winners
  • On-going throughout the day: Fish t-shirt printing, Face painting, Small boat (<6")
    building and racing, Stilt building, Salt art, Environmental exhibits, May-pole dancing, food, and fabulous fun.

To register for the paddle, to learn more, or to volunteer visit: http://westportwatershed.org/news-events/river-day/

River Testing Results Posted Weekly -

Roberta Carvalho, Science Director


Visit our website for weekly water testing results of the Westport River.


Go to this link:  http://westportwatershed.org/river-info/water-resources/


WRWA has been sampling the River to test for fecal coliform bacteria since 1991; monitoring for the presence of bacteria pollution. Bacteria do not generally damage the ecosystem, but can make people sick when they eat tainted seafood, or swim in contaminated water. They are also a marker to identify the possible presence of other pathogens that come from the same fecal sources. Bacteria in the River comes from human wastewater and domestic and wild animal waste.


The laboratory tests are done by the City of New Bedford Health Department Lab. WRWA's collection and analysis of samples has been utilized by the town and state agencies to document bacterial contamination in the river. WRWA's data is not used to open and close shellfish areas, this sampling is done by the State Division of Marine Fisheries.


Water quality testing results for local public beaches can be found on the state's website:




Bacteria/pathogen pollution is transported to the river primarily by rainfall and resultant runoff. The amount, duration, intensity, and time span between rain events are factors that influence fecal coliform levels in the river. Rainfall is responsible for washing fecal coliform into the river. The amount of rainfall directly affects the amount of fecal coliform in the river. During periods of drought, fecal coliform counts in the river tend to drop significantly. When there is prolonged or large amounts of rain, the effect on fecal coliform is two-fold. First the increase in rainfall simply adds more fecal coliform to the river. Second, the rain decreases the salinity in the estuary, making it more favorable for bacterial growth. Temperature affects fecal coliform growth only when it is extremely cold. In January and February, bacterial growth is inhibited as a result of the cold water temperatures. In the months of May through December, temperature does not seem to play a role in limiting or fostering bacterial growth. During this period the amount of rainfall is the most important factor.


Looking back at the last ten years of WRWA's monitoring, conditions are greatly improving. These improvements have allowed state shellfish regulators to change the segments for the opening of conditional closures shellfish beds. This increases the availability of shellfish harvest potential.

Beyond the Sea
The WRWA 2014 Summer Gala & Silent Auction 
"Beyond the Sea"  

Date: August 9, 2014
Time: 5-8pm
Location: 6 Windward Way, Westport Point

Join WRWA for fine food, music and silent auction.

Make your reservations online today: http://westportwatershed.org/?p=61


What in the world is a TMDL? (And why should we care?)
Betsy White, Advocacy Director


The phrase TMDL has been floating around Westport for a while now. But just what does it mean, and how is it important? Well, let's start with what it stands for: Total Maximum Daily Load. The term is used to explain how much of something is allowed before it becomes too much and thus harmful. This "something" for the Westport River is nitrogen.


Nitrogen comes into the River from many sources: fertilizers, stormwater runoff, septic systems, and even the atmosphere. Too much nitrogen leads to algae blooms, dying eelgrass beds, and murky water. If there continues to be too much nitrogen, shellfish start dying, fish can no longer survive, the water starts to stink, and all the good that the River provides starts to disappear. Not a good thing to happen for Westport. Unfortunately, the Westport River has been showing the signs of having excess nitrogen in its waters, and water quality sampling done through the years by WRWA has confirmed it. This is why we should care.


Ok, so the River is impacted by nitrogen. But how much is it impacted? The answer can be found by asking two questions: how much nitrogen is in the water, and how much nitrogen is too much. The water sampling program conducted by WRWA, in partnership with the Buzzards Bay Coalition (BBC) and the School for Marine Science and Technology-UMass Dartmouth (SMAST), has determined what is the average amount of nitrogen in not only the River, but in many of the streams that feed into the River as well. So, there is an answer for question one.


Question two requires quite a bit more scientific research. Fortunately, the scientists at SMAST have created the Massachusetts Estuary Project (MEP) to help answer the "how much is too much" question. For the Westport River, they looked at what the conditions of the River used to be (fairly healthy) and compared them to what they are today (not so healthy). Through their research, SMAST scientists were able to determine a number which would be the amount of nitrogen in the water that would allow the River to be at healthy conditions-this is the "threshold amount" of nitrogen. Therefore, any amount of nitrogen over this threshold amount is too much. This threshold amount is customarily the number used as the TMDL, which must be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP).


Unfortunately, Westport is still awaiting the release of the TMDL number from MassDEP. However, while The TMDL for the Westport River is its "official" target number, the threshold amount can be used as a guide for nitrogen management in the interim. Currently, the amount of nitrogen in the River is higher than the threshold amount, which means that nitrogen levels must be decreased. Reducing or eliminating the sources of this nitrogen is extremely doable, and it can best be done through the development of management options and having people involved in the process and the solution. Caring and working together can help bring the River back to healthy conditions for the present and the future, for the benefit of all of us. This is why we should care.


For questions or further information, please contact Betsy at b.white@wrwa.com.


Baycoast Bank Supports WRWA Summer Interns
James Goodman & Brendan Cormier

Shelli Costa, Education Director

For the third year, BayCoast Bank has contributed to the Westport River Watershed Alliance to support the organization's summer internship program.


The WRWA hires students from local colleges to assist with its education and monitoring programs.  BayCoast Bank's investment allows for the WRWA to bring two interns aboard for the summer: James Goodman & Brenden Cormier.

James is a recent graduate of Bristol Community College. He's hoping to transfer to UMass Amherst and pursue a degree in environmental science, and feels lucky to have found a dynamic organization in his hometown which combines his two passions, children and the environment.   James has inherited a love for working with children of all ages; his parents are teachers.  James is specifically looking to become involved with the clean energy movement and become a catalyst for changing the way people obtain and distribute electricity.

Brendan is currently going into his final year studying Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems with an emphasis on Business Management at the University of New Hampshire.  Brendan grew up living just up the river from Hix Bridge and has enjoyed spending time swimming, boating and wakeboarding on the Westport River. He finds it a fulfilling experience working for an organization that works to preserve the environment he grew up in so that many others can enjoy its wonders. Brendan worked throughout high school with the Trustees of Reservations at the Westport Town Farm and has had experience teaching children about nature and the joy he finds in the outdoors that some kids have not had the chance to know and looks forward to another teaching opportunity.      


BayCoast Bank President and Chief Executive Officer Nicholas Christ said, "the internships offered by the WRWA give students a unique opportunity to forge connections between their academics and the real world. It's an invaluable experience that merges hands-on learning with career exploration. We are proud to once again support the WRWA and its educational programs."

WRWA Executive Director Matt Patrick thanked BayCoast for its generous contribution and commented, "It helps us do two things: educate children and provide work experience for two very promising graduates from our local state university who are interested in pursuing careers that will benefit the environment."


About BayCoast Bank


BayCoast Bank, formerly Citizens Union Savings Bank, is a mutually-owned savings bank which was chartered in 1851. Currently, the Bank serves southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, with locations in Fall River, Fairhaven, New Bedford, North Dighton, Seekonk, Somerset, Swansea, Westport, and Tiverton, RI. BayCoast Bank offers a wide range of financial services including investment management, trust services, and insurance and brokerage services to consumers and businesses. Its affiliates include BayCoast Financial Services, offering stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities and college savings plans; and Partners Insurance Group, LLC, an independent agency representing several insurance companies that provide automobile, home, life and business coverage. Nicholas Christ is the Bank's President and Chief Executive Officer. Main headquarters are at 30 Bedford Street, Fall River, MA 02721. For additional information on the Bank or its services, please visit www.BayCoastBank.com or call 508-678-7641.

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