Westport River Watershed Alliance
River News - October, 2014
Your Support Makes a Difference - Our Annual Fund Drive


WRWA was founded in 1976 with the community's desire to protect and improve Westport River. Since then, WRWA has grown as a community organization committed to the health and future of the River, and to educating current and future generations of River stewards. More people than ever before are able to swim, fish, sail, and enjoy the waters of the Westport River. This is only possible due to the support of our members who all want the same thing - a clean and healthy Westport River.

We need your help. Each year we have two fundraising campaigns - a membership drive in the spring and an Annual Fund Drive in the fall. Your Annual Fund Drive request will be in your mailbox soon. Please consider an Annual Fund gift to WRWA, above and beyond your membership support. All donations are tax-deductible. To make your donation online visit the link below.


Thanks to Our Water Testing Volunteers
Roberta Carvalho, Science Director
Kiri Peirce and Ron Price help with sample collection
Each summer a group of dedicated volunteers assist with WRWA's water quality monitoring program. WRWA's program provides water quality assessment and fecal coliform bacteria analysis for 20 sites in the Westport River. The presence of fecal bacteria in rivers and streams is an indicator that pathogenic microorganisms might also be present and that swimming and eating shellfish might be a health risk.       
We thank the many volunteers that helped with sampling this year: Curt Freese, Gay Gillespie, Bea Gormley, Kiri Peirce, Ron Price, and Catherine Williams.
WRWA also collaborates with the Buzzards Bay Coalition's Baywatchers Program to conduct a secondary and separate water quality assessment program for nutrient / ecosystem health status. The Baywatchers program assesses the health of each of the 30 major harbors and coves in Buzzard's Bay. Volunteer Baywatchers monitor an assigned site once a week between 6 and 9 a.m. from May through September. The sites are monitored for: dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity, and water clarity.
Thank you volunteers for your diligent work that provides essential data to evaluate the health of the Westport River. We will need two new volunteers next summer. Please call Roberta Carvalho at WRWA 508-636-3016 or email water@wrwa.com if you would like to help out.
Many thanks to our 2014 Baywatchers:
  • Charley Appleton, Head of Westport
  • Brenden Cormier, Hix Bridge
  • Catherine Williams, Cadman's Neck
  • Lee Tripp, Cummings Lane
  • James Goodman, Westport Point
  • Ed Carey, Carey's Boatyard
  • Jim Whitin, Canoe Rock
  • Sally Ann Ledbetter, Charlton's Wharf
  • Substitute monitors: Tom and Kate Schmitt
What Are Westport River Salt Marshes Worth?
Curt Freese, Interim Executive Director
A beautiful West Branch marsh


Covering an estimated 1,100 acres, salt marshes are a common feature of both the east and west branches of the Westport River. Characterized by plant species such as cord grass, black grass and salt marsh hay, a healthy Westport salt marsh is one of the world's most productive ecosystems and offers a wealth of what resource economists call "ecosystem services."


Placing an economic value on these services is challenging, but that doesn't keep resource economists from trying. Recently, resource economist Edward Barbier and colleagues reviewed U.S. studies that estimated the dollar value of these services. Their results:

  • Coastal protection from storm surges and flooding. Value = $3,334/acre/year
  • Water purification through the uptake of pollution and excess nutrients such as nitrogen. Value = $785 - $15,000/acre/year
  • Carbon sequestration, whereby salt marsh plants take up carbon and deposit it in sediments. Value = $12/acre/year
  • Recreational fishing, which depends on salt marshes to provide nurseries, shelter and food for both shellfish and finfish. Value = $981 -$6,471/acre/year


Obviously missing from this list are the values to commercial fishing, to the control of coastal erosion, to mitigation of sea level rise, to recreational benefits of birds and other wildlife that depend on salt marshes, and to the aesthetic and educational benefits of our salt marshes. Also missing is what's called the "existence" value - the benefit people receive by simply knowing something exists even though they may never see or use it.


Nevertheless, the total value of this incomplete list is impressive: $5,112 - $24,817/acre/year. Assuming that these values are applicable here, our 1,100 acres of salt marsh have a minimum estimated value of $5.6 million to $27.3 million per year.


Another approach to estimating how much our salt marshes are worth is to look at how much someone, say a developer, who wants to destroy a wetland has to pay to compensate for its loss. For this we can turn to state wetland mitigation programs that require compensatory payments by developers who destroy wetlands. Several states along the East Coast have established payment levels for such programs, including Massachusetts where earlier this year the Department of Fish & Game and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers established a fee of $621,165/acre for coastal wetlands. At this price, Westport's 1,100 acres of salt marsh are worth $683 million.


One-half of the world's salt marshes and an estimated 37% New England's salt marshes have been filled, dredged or in other ways lost to human development. Although state and federal laws now offer strong protection for coastal wetlands in Massachusetts, indirect and unintentional factors such as toxins, excess nutrient loads and alteration of tidal flows continue to threaten their health.


For example, a 2002 report by the Buzzards Bay National Estuaries Program identified 20 places in Westport where bridges, paths, culverts, and other structures were impeding tidal flows of importance to the health of our salt marshes. Restricted tidal flushing general results in more fresh water in the marsh which, in turn, generally results in dense stands of phragmites replacing native vegetation, with serious consequences for fish and wildlife. These tidal flow restrictions range from relatively small ones, such as the inadequate culvert that, at the time of the study, connected Cockeast Pond with the west branch of the river, to very large ones such as the Route 88 bridge over the river and the rubble under Hix Bridge. WRWA worked with the Town of Westport Highway Department, the Westport Fishermen's Association and many other individuals and groups to restore the tidal flow into Cockeast Pond by inserting a larger culvert in 2010, and we are now collaborating with the Town of Westport, Mass DOT and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remove the rubble and restore natural flows-and oyster beds-at Hix Bridge. Much more obviously remains to be done.


As the economic values of salt marshes indicate, the costs of such restoration projects are often well justified. While assigning a dollar value to the multiple benefits provided by the Westport River and its salt marshes is useful for shaping policies and securing funding for conserving them, we also recognize that the dollar is not the only measure of value. Many of us, if asked the value of the Westport River and its salt marshes, would reply "priceless." We believe that conserving these rich ecosystems and the diversity of life they harbor and that we enjoy is, regardless of their economic value, simply the right thing to do.


Cockeast Pond Talk Well-Received

Betsy White, WRWA's Advocacy Director, gave a talk on October 5 regarding the health of Cockeast Pond at the Acoaxet Club in Westport, overlooking the pond. The event was open to the public and well attended, and focused on concerns about nitrogen pollution and its effects on the health of the pond. In addition, Betsy presented a proposal for an in-depth scientific study of Cockeast Pond that would determine the extent and causes of the decline in pond health, investigate phragmites control, and develop management recommendations for restoring and maintaining the pond's health. The talk stimulated extensive discussion as those in attendance offered diverse perspectives on the health of the pond and factors affecting it. WRWA is raising $28,000 through donations for Phase One of the study, set to begin in late 2014, and will seek grant support for Phase Two which runs from 2015-2016.
WRWA would like to thank the Acoaxet Club for hosting the talk and providing a great view of the pond. Contributions for this important study can be made by check to WRWA, PO Box 3427, Westport, MA 02790 or by credit card by visiting our website: (http://westportwatershed.org/2011/01/cockeast-pond-study/), or calling the office at 508-636-3016.  Please be sure to designate funds to the Cockeast Pond Study. Contributions are 100% tax deductible.

For comments or questions about the study, please contact: Betsy White Advocacy Director and Cockeast Pond Project Manager, WRWA, PO Box 3427, Westport, MA 02790; 508 636-3016; b.white@wrwa.com

Support the MA Bottle Bill


On November 4, voters will have the opportunity go to the polls and Vote Yes on question 2 to increase recycling and stop litter. We are proud to be one of the 100 local and state organizations to endorse this issue

A yes vote on Question 2 on the November ballot will update the successful 32-year-old Bottle Bill, and expand the five-cent refundable deposit currently on soda and beer bottles to bottled water, sports drinks, juices, and other on-the-go beverages that were not included in the original Bottle Bill. Eighty (80) percent of containers with a deposit are recycled, 23% of containers without a deposit are recycled.

Big beverage companies have already poured millions into airing dishonest ads trying to fool voters. The only way to win this campaign is to get the facts to the voters. We need  your help to do that - one on one conversations are a key way to blunt the effects of the barrage of industry money. You can find more facts here, but in short, voting yes on question 2 will reduce litter, curb global warming emissions, save cities and towns money and increase recycling.

COASTSWEEP Cleanup a Messy Success

Each September WRWA volunteers join thousands of volunteers throughout Massachusetts for COASTSWEEP-the statewide coastal cleanup sponsored by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM). COASTSWEEP is part of the International Coastal Cleanup organized by Ocean Conservancy in Washington, DC. Volunteers from all over the world collect marine debris-trash, fishing line, and any other human-made items-and record what they find. This information is then analyzed and used to identify sources of marine debris and develop education and policy initiatives to help reduce it.
This year we had over 20 people that helped to clean up Westport Town Beach. Over 20 bags of garbage were collected and also a number of lobster traps and rope debris. Thanks to everyone that came out to help.
Many Thanks to Our Corporate Supporters



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