Westport River Watershed Alliance
River News - July, 2014
WRWA Moving Forward

As Matt Patrick, WRWA Executive Director, begins his leave of absence to run for the Massachusetts Senate seat from the Plymouth Barnstable district, I offer both our best wishes for electoral success and thanks for all he has accomplished on behalf of our members, volunteers and staff.  Since coming to us in September 2011, Matt has been not only an effective leader, mentor and advocate, but also a good friend.  Having served two terms as a Falmouth selectman and for ten years as state representative from that community, Matt applied his knowledge of local government culture and practice as he helped the WRWA forge strong relationships with Westport's elected and appointed officials.  Thinking about Matt's environmental advocacy, I appreciate his passionate quest to remove rubble from the 1930s Hix Bridge demolition that impedes tidal flow in that part of the River.  Matt's goals: creating an ecosystem in which nitrogen is abated and oysters might thrive.  Working with local, state and federal officials, he secured state bond legislation and commitments from the Army Corps of Engineers totaling $1.0 million in support for that project.  Matt also led the WRWA through financial realignment that reduced operating costs and focused on fundraising goals that over the past two years we have met and in most cases exceeded.
Happily, Curt Freese, WRWA board member and a former executive at World Wildlife Fund, is ably minding our store while Matt is campaigning for "higher office."   Although none of us looks forward to searching for, recruiting and engaging a new WRWA executive director, we nonetheless offer Matt our best wishes and hope that on November 4th voters in the Plymouth and Barnstable Senate District see in him the passion and wisdom for responsible leadership that we saw three years ago.
Tom Schmitt, President, WRWA Board of Directors
Welcome Curt Freese, Interim Executive Director


What an exciting start as the new interim executive director of WRWA. Before I share a little of that start with you, let me begin by echoing Chairman Tom Schmitt's thanks to Matt Patrick for his outstanding service as WRWA's executive director over the last three years. Of course, for me Matt's legacy is a double-edged sword: His leadership in creating and fostering the wonderful array of WRWA projects to improve and maintain the health of the Westport River make this an exciting job to step into. However, it also means he's a tough act to follow!


But how can I complain when during the first weeks on the job I:

  • Joined WRWA's education director, Shelli Costa, and her crew of instructors on a sunny day on Westport Beach where 40-some children were learning the natural wonders of life along the shore. (Maybe Shelli will train me some day to be an instructor.)

  • Found myself on the Westport River at 7 am with osprey parents bringing in fish for junior's breakfast while I and volunteers Ron Price and Catherine Williams assisted Roberta Carvalho, WRWA's science director, conduct water quality sampling up and down both the east and west branches.

  • Worked with former EPA scientist Ken Perez, Westport shellfish constable Gary Sherman, and scientist from SMAST to initiate an oyster study in the river (see article).

  • Helped our advocacy director, Betsy White, continue our collaboration with Chris Gonsalves, Westport's highway surveyor, to inventory road-stream crossing to identify deteriorating culverts that impede stream flow, fish movements, and other aspects of stream quality, as well as causing flooding problems.

  • Marvel at the tireless work of Gay Gillespie, our development director, and numerous devoted volunteers as they round up fantastic auctions items and organize myriad details for WRWA's annual Summer Gala.

  • Am infused daily with the contagious upbeat, boundless energy-aah, youth!-of our administrative assistant, Dachelle London, as she balances everything from our financial books to the competing demands of staff, board and visitors vying for her attention.

  • Enjoy incredible support from a board of directors of such diverse talents who volunteer more time and hard work for WRWA and the health of the river than any other nonprofit I've ever known.

  • See families from throughout the watershed having fun participating in River Day festivities at the Head of Westport.

  • Have met scores of WRWA members who share our commitment to ensure that the Westport River will be one of New England's healthiest rivers for future generations to enjoy and who generously support WRWA's efforts to meet that vision. I can't wait to meet more of you so I can thank you personally for sharing our vision and dedication.

As the saying goes, it's tough job, but someone has to do it.


A sincere thanks to everyone who has helped me get on my feet-and made flying catches to cover my stumbles-during these first weeks.



More about Curt

Curt received a B.S. in fish and wildlife biology from Iowa State University and Ph.D. in ecology from Johns Hopkins University. He has worked on biodiversity and wildlands research and conservation in marine and terrestrial ecosystems throughout much of North America and Latin America, as well as in Africa and the Arctic. Previous positions include Peace Corps volunteer for Costa Rica's National Parks, assistant professor at Rhodes College, head of the Latin American program for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, executive director of Yellowstone Ecosystem Studies, managing director of the Northern Great Plains Program and vice president for global programs at World Wildlife Fund, and founding executive director of the American Prairie Reserve. He has authored/edited four books and numerous papers on ecology and conservation. Curt lectures, writes and consults on conservation. He lives in Westport with his wife, Heather Bentz.
Don't Miss Summer Gala "Beyond the Sea" Saturday August 9th 

Date: August 9, 2014
Time: 5-8 pm
Location: 6 Windward Way, Westport Point
Make your reservations online today: http://westportwatershed.org/?p=61 

Beautifully situated at Westport Point this year's Gala promises to be extraordinary.  Wilhelmina's Catering is serving up an array of delicious hors d'ouevres, including artisanal cheeses from Formaggio Kitchen and Shy Brothers Farm, Back Eddy smoked salmon, Wicked Kickin' Cheesecakes, and 10 Cousin's chowder. There is an open bar that includes fresh Spindrift beverages. Popular local acoustic musicians Toph and Tom will provide the evening's music.


This year there is an added surprise - a LIVE AUCTION!

At 6:30 well-known auctioneer Steve Fletcher will take to the stage and present two special items:


1) A wonderful one week stay for up to 6 people at Peartree Cottage located in Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire, England. The Peartree is within an hour's drive of Oxford/Woodstock, Bath, Cheltenham, Stratford-upon-Avon/Warwick and about a hundred charming villages and fabulous stately homes and gardens.


Europa Ole


2) An original painting by well-known artist Alden (Aud) Wicks. Titled "Europa Ole," the pastel study depicts a billowing blond-haired nude waving her red cape to engage a charging bull in a farm field overlooking the river, boat beach, Point of Rocks, and the Charlton Estate. One of a kind for collectors.



The Silent Auction also has many interesting items, including more trips - hence our theme "Beyond the Sea" -- that include a trip to the Azores. Other offerings include overnight stays in Boston and New York City, a beautiful 7x10 handmade Oriental rug from Daghestan, a copper pig weathervane, outstanding artwork and more. Best to check out our website, which will be updated regularly - to see all the great treats. http://westportwatershed.org/?p=61


 Reserve early before August 1 and save.


Oyster experiment underway
Curt Freese, Interim Executive Director
Gary Sherman and Ken Perez secure the oyster cages.


As you know from the June's River News, we're making great progress working with the Town of Westport, MA Department of Transportation and Army Corps of Engineers to move ahead with the rubble removal under Hix Bridge to restore the natural flow of the Westport River in this area. One of the major goals of the project is to restore the large and healthy oyster beds that existed above the bridge years ago, but have declined in large part because the rubble is reducing the velocity of flow near, and thus allowing sediment to build up on, the bottom of the river. Both the reduced velocity of flow and the silt are generally bad for oysters.


To better understand how changes in flow velocity with removal of the rubble may affect oysters above Hix Bridge, in June we launched an experiment conceived and designed by former EPA scientist Dr. Ken Perez, who is generously volunteering his expertise and time. The basic experimental design is to place oysters at three different levels above the river's bottom, and then monitor over the next several months if oysters near the bottom of the river, where the flow velocity is slowest, grow slower than oysters further from the bottom where flow velocity is higher. To do this, we used two large wire cages (see photo), each with three shelves to hold the oysters at different levels-roughly , 2 and 3 feet above the bottom of the river.  


To get started we fortunately benefitted from the help of shellfisherman John Borden who collected several hundred oysters for us. Then, thanks to Kenny Tripp lending us the use of his dock just below Hix Bridge, shellfish constable Gary Sherman, Dr. Perez and I placed about 60 oysters in each shelf of the cages. We loaded the two oyster-laden cages onto Gary's boat, motored above the bridge about 50 yards, and dropped each cage into the river.


To establish a baseline for the average size of the 360 oysters in the cages, we kept a representative sample of 20 oysters to weigh and measure. Thanks to the cooperation of the Coastal Systems Program at the School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) in New Bedford, Dr. Perez and I used their facilities to measure the shell length and, more importantly, the dry weight of the oysters. SMAST will also run tests on shell hardness.


Over the next few months we'll monitor growth rates by collecting a few oysters from each shelf in the cages to measure and weigh. We'll report the results in River News later in the year.


WRWA Future Science and Education Center

Westport River Watershed Alliance is creating a New Science and Education Center on the River at the Head of Westport. We have purchased and are restoring the historic Garage at the Head of Westport for this facility. The new center will enable us to better meet our mission to restore, protect, celebrate and sustain the natural resources of the Westport River and its watershed.    



  • On the River - the focus of our work
  • For outdoor learning on the river
  • In the center of the watershed, offering high visibility and easy access by all
  • Near major pollution problems and projects that address them
  • Close to schools


  • For exhibits and special events
  • For our staff and interns
  • For visiting students and the public


  • Adaptive re-use of an historic building built in 1871
  • Latest technologies in wastewater treatment
  • Wheelchair accessible


  • Ownership of our facilities
  • Long-term cost savings
Looking for Some Summer Fun for Kids?
We've Got Room in Our Summer Programs.
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!



WRWA Receives Massachusetts Environmental Trust Grant

Roberta Carvalho, Science Director


We are excited to report that the trustees of the Massachusetts Environmental Trust awarded $15,000 to WRWA to identify sources of pollution relative to the applicable water quality standards for fecal coliform (FC) in the West Branch of the Westport River. Since 2009 high FC levels have required extended shellfish closures in the upper West Branch. WRWA will track bacterial sources by: employing a sampling program in the West Branch and contributing streams, counting bird population densities, and producing an outreach brochure to encourage the community to pick up after their pets.


The Massachusetts Environmental Trust is one of the state's largest sources of funding for water quality initiatives. They fund nonprofit organizations, municipalities, scientists and educational institutions with special environmental license plates.  The Right Whale & Roseate Terns, the Leaping Brook Trout, and the Blackstone Valley Mill plates represent the diversity of Massachusetts ecosystems. From the coasts and estuaries to the inland streams to the urban rivers, every person in Massachusetts feels the impact when waters are degraded. The plates are available from the Registry of Motor Vehicles .


Want to Know if the River is Clean for Swimming?

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/


Results for testing at local beaches can be found on the state's website: http://mass.digitalhealthdepartment.com/public_21/beaches.cfm?btown=Westport  

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