Blackstone River Watershed Association
Blackstone River Watershed Association
In This Issue

Annual EarthDay Cleanup

Family Fun Fishing Day

A Day on the Blackstone



Annual WQM Summit

Assisting the BRC Volunteer WQM Program

Taking on Climate Change in MA: Update

Fish Kill: Who Do You Call?

BRVNHC Visitor Center in Worcester: Update

Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz 2015


Blackstone River Fisheries


Herb Gardens


BRWA Online
About the BRWA


Issue 54 April 2015


Annual EarthDay Cleanup
April is finally here! And the BRWA is gearing up for our annual cleanup of shorelines and waterways. Hopefully, you have already marked your calendars for Sunday, April 19th from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.! It will be held rain or shine.

When you contact us at or 508-278-5200 to sign up, let us know if you need to stay in your hometown or are willing to be assigned elsewhere depending upon our need. We'll place children and families at safer sites and reserve roadside collection to adults. All volunteers should wear sturdy footwear, long pants and long sleeves. We suggest a hat and water as well if it's a warm day.
image courtesy Michael Wuyek/Flickr..
A volunteer with trash haul from 2014 EarthDay Cleanup.

We'll need some hardy folks who can help on shore and in the water at Plummers Landing in Northbridge. A large fallen tree acts as a strainer that collects all sorts of debris. The river crew needs to pull it into their boats and hand it off to the shore crew. The shoreline is steep, and it can be challenging to haul the heavy, wet items up onto land. If this sounds like a fun challenge, we want to hear from you!!

Unless you clean at River Bend Farm in Uxbridge, the BRWA will deliver supplies like work gloves, trash bags, grabbers, and detailed directions to you ahead of time. Volunteers will be rewarded for their hard work afterwards with pizza and refreshments at the Visitor Center at 3pm.

While there, you can also enjoy the Annual Clean and Green Fair from 2:30 - 4:00 p.m., sponsored by Alternatives Unlimited, Inc. There will be seedling plantings, rain barrels, terracycling education, children's activities, and giveaways including perennials from Schumacher Landscaping (


Family Fun Fishing Day
fish on a line Ready to go fishing? Then join the BRWA and Alternatives Unlimited, Inc. on Saturday, May 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at River Bend Farm in Uxbridge for a day of fishing fun! People of all ages, abilities and experience are encouraged to try their hand at fishing along the Blackstone River and Canal. With a variety of educational activities, demonstrations on casting and tying techniques, games, prizes, food and beverages, the day will be full of fun, learning and friendly competition. The Mass Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as Trout Unlimited will be helping to sponsor this event by providing rods and reels, bait, and instruction. Food and beverages will be provided by the Uxbridge First Holiday Night Committee. This is a catch and release fishing experience. The event is free but preregistration is required. For more information, go to


A Day on the Blackstone
On June 6, the BRWA will host a unique and fabulous paddling event. It will begin at River Bend Farm Visitor Center in Uxbridge with a hike along the Canal, and continue with a leisurely one-day paddle from Stanley Woolen Mill in Uxbridge to the Blackstone Gorge, stopping at historical sites along the way. National Park Service Ranger Chuck Arning will talk about the importance of the Blackstone River and Canal to the American Industrial Revolution, share some folklore about the Blackstone Valley, and give commentary at historical sites along the way. Pizza will be served at the Gorge.

Shuttle service between the Gorge and RBF will be provided, and the Blackstone Valley Paddlers will accompany us to provide for safety. This event will be limited to 30 canoes/kayaks. Cost for the event is $25.00 per person. Registration and canoe drop off at Stanley Woolen will be from 8:00 - 8:30 a.m. To sign up, contact the BRWA at
Paddling in the Blackstone Valley



April is National Humor Month. Environmentalists can be a serious crowd at times. So take this opportunity to lighten up! You can save the world AND be amusing, deadpan, farcical, hysterical, jocular, ludicrous, merry, punny, sardonic, wacky, or zany. Here are two terrible puns from to get you started:

Even though the well was a mystery to her, she didn't want to get to the bottom of it.

A river dredging project was to undergo an in-depth audit.

I told you they were terrible!
Sundays April 19th - October: Blackstone Valley Explorer Riverboat Cruise on the Blackstone River. Hourly, 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. Festival Pier, Pawtucket. Learn about the Blackstone Valley like never before, and experience the heritage, culture and natural wonder on board the Blackstone Valley Explorer. Free 4th Sundays. Free Environmental Education Saturdays. In May the Explorer will return to Central Falls Landing for the Summer. Information: 401-724-2200;

4/6 Central Mass Chapter Trout Unlimited Monthly Meeting. 6:30 -9:00 p.m. Auburn Sportsman's Club. 50 Elm Street, Auburn, MA.   info
4/12, 4/24 Bark and Buds Spring Walk. River Bend Farm, Uxbridge. 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. Take a tree walk around what was once a dairy farm, become a nature detective and match up buds and bark during this challenging and exciting time of year - before leaves fully open! Info: 508-278-7604
4/15 Blackstone River Watershed Council Monthly Meeting. 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Lincoln RI.   info
4/19 BRWA's Annual EarthDay Cleanup. 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. River Bend Farm Visitor Center, Uxbridge and Sites throughout the watershed. See above for more information. Contact: or 508-278-5200.
4/19 - 4/21 Annual Northeast Fish and Wildlife Conference. Newport, RI. Presentation topics will include the following: large-scale river restoration, using Facebook to engage the public, assessing stream crossings and connectivity, diadromous fish passages, and more. Click here to register and here for more info.
4/23 BRWA Board Meeting. 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 287 Oak St., Uxbridge.   info
4/24 Rabbits and Raindrops Storytime. River Bend Farm, Uxbridge. 10:30 - 11:30 a.m. Stories, nature walk, and nature collage craft. Preschool-early elementary. Info: 508-278-7604.
4/25 Friends of Upton State Forest / MA DCR Park Serve Day. 9:00 a.m. to noon. For info, call 508-278-6486 or email
4/25 Manchaug Pond Cleanup. 9:00 a.m. to noon.  info
4/25 Lake Singletary Cleanup. 8:00 a.m. to noon. Meet at boat ramp.   info
4/26 Blackstone River Watershed Council Open House. 11:00 a.m. 100 New River Road, Manville, RI.
5/2 Blackstone Canal Clean Up. 8 - noon 15 St. Paul St., Blackstone, MA. For info, contact Dave Barber 508-478-4918 or email
5/23 Family Fun Fishing Day. 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. River Bend Farm. See above for more information.
5/26 BRWA Board Meeting. 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 287 Oak St., Uxbridge.   info
6/6 BRWA's "A Day on the Blackstone". See above for more information.



Annual WQM Summit
On March 21st, the BRC held its Annual Water Quality Monitoring Summit and Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast in Hopedale. Volunteer monitors from the Headwaters, Midreach, and RI teams attended along with other guests and interested community members.
Susan Thomas presenting results at the 2015 Water Quality Monitoring Summit.
Susan Thomas presenting results at the 2015 Water Quality Monitoring Summit.

The BRC took this opportunity to thank the volunteers for their valuable efforts during the 2014 season. Monitors were provided light breakfast refreshments and a nifty new BRC hat as a thank you gift! Special recognition was given to Michelle Reed-Walsh and Gary Pothier for their five years of service to the program. As part of the Midreach Team, Michelle monitors one site on the Mumford River as well as Meadow Brook. Gary assists the Headwaters Team by monitoring a site on Broad Meadow Brook.

Susan Thomas, Program Coordinator, presented the annual Report Card, which assigns grades of excellent to poor to each of the 75 monitoring sites for each of the key parameters: aesthetics, temperature, dissolved oxygen, % saturation, and nutrients (a blend of phosphate and nitrate levels).

  • Regarding headwater cold water fisheries, most sites were temperature-stressed for June, July, and August, especially for Tatnuck Brook at Park Ave., and Sewell Brook at Holden Street.
  • Sewell Brook at Holden St. was graded "poor" for dissolved oxygen and % saturation while Tatnuck at Park Ave. also had low levels.
  • Regarding nutrients in the headwaters, most sites were graded "good" for total phosphorus levels; a handful were graded "fair".
  • "Poor"-graded sites included Beaver Brook at Park Ave., Broad Meadow Brook at Dunkirk, Coal Mine Brook, and Poor Farm Brook.
  • All nine sites on the main stem received a "poor" grade for nutrients.
  • The worst of these, with high levels for both phosphate and nitrate, included Fisherville, Sutton, Plummers Landing, Stanley Woolen, and below Albion Dam.
  • Regarding cold water fisheries, West River at Pleasant/Glenn was "poor" for DO and % Saturation in July and September; Miscoe Brook was "poor" for both in July and October; and Meadow Brook was "poor" for % saturation in October.
Rhode Island
  • A "poor" grade was given for nutrients to the following tributaries in lower Mass and RI: Mill River at Mill St and Privilege St, Clear River, Cherry Brok, Crookfall Brook, Mussey Brook, Sneech Brook, Sneech Brook, Peters River, Robin Hollow Pond outlet, and Millers River.
Year to Year
  • The 2014 season was compared to 2013 based on the summary reports. Based on the grades of excellent, good, fair, and poor, 33 sites received a worse nutrient grade this year compared with 8 sites that improved. 13 sites were worse for DO compared to 7 that were better.
Richard Hartley, Fisheries Biologist with the Mass Division of Fish and Wildlife, gave a presentation on Blackstone fisheries. This information is provided in our "Spotlight on Science" section of the newsletter.

Rachel Calabro and Peter Coffin, BRC President and Coordinator, respectively, spoke to the audience about the BRC's Campaign for a Fishable/Swimmable Blackstone. Analysis of the 11 years of water quality data is underway with a plan to release findings in a multi-step process. Some questions to be asked in the statistical analysis are the following: What are the relative roles of the tributaries and main stem for overall water quality in the Blackstone? How does looking just at wet weather events change our view of the status and trends of the river? What's the best way to develop a site ranking of worst to best so we can identify priority action plans?

As an example of a preliminary analysis, the audience was shown a graph of all 88 data points for phosphate for the Quinsigamond River at Pleasant Street in which a visual interpretation shows the site improving. In contrast, a graph containing all data points for nitrate at the Branch River at Great Road suggests that the site is getting worse for this parameter. The BRC will be posting updates to its website ( as the analysis proceeds. For additional information, contact the BRC at


Assisting the BRC Volunteer WQM Program
The Blackstone River Coalition is grateful for the numerous people who have expressed an interest in helping out with its watershed-wide monitoring program. Testing of our 75 sites from Worcester to Pawtucket occurs on the second Saturday of the month from April through November.

Some of these new volunteers will be trained to monitor a particular site like Bacon Brook in Uxbridge. Others will be trained as floaters to cover sites on an "as-needed" basis when the regular monitor is absent. And still other volunteers will be trained to assist in the testing labs; for the midreach team, this is located at the Tri River Family Health Center in Uxbridge.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in joining our program, please contact Susan Thomas, WQM Coordinator, at


Taking on Climate Change in MA: Update
The Massachusetts House has put forth a bill (H.752) that calls for the "establishment of a comprehensive adaptation management plan in response to climate change." It was referred to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Elements of the bill include the following: "effective prioritization for the resiliency, preservation, protection, restoration and enhancement of the commonwealth’s built and natural infrastructure", "a commitment to the adherence of sound management practices which shall take into account the existing natural, built and economic characteristics", and data on such things as drought, temperature change, and inland flooding. These are all relevant to the Blackstone River and its watershed.

The bill calls for the formation of a Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan Advisory Commission that will include, among others, stakeholders and representatives with expertise in water supply and quality, recreation, ecosystems dynamics, and rivers and wetlands. It also calls for the development of regional plans that will include, among other things, an understanding of regional characteristics, including regional environmental characteristics.

The language of the bill repeatedly makes the connection between environmental and economic conditions and priorities. This is something conservation proponents have long been advocating for with mixed success. For example, intact, functioning wetlands provide a measurable economic return to local communities through flood control, water quality, erosion control, and recreation revenue to name a few. Policy leaders have been slow or reluctant to embrace this reality until the current focus on climate disruption. Better late than never?


Fish Kill: Who Do You Call?
It is not unusual to witness large scale fish die-offs at the end of winter. Especially after this past winter when lakes and ponds were covered with thick ice and tons of snow. This cover leads to a dramatic decline in oxygen levels and many fish that die as a result will suddenly appear when the ice melts.

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is the lead state agency for responding to fish kills. If you witness a fish kill - regardless of the circumstances, or someone reports one to you, contact Richard Hartley at (508) 389-6330 or cell (508) 479-4092. You'll need to provide the witness' contact information and location of the fish kill. You should also contact the Fish Kill cell phone at (508) 450-5869 if the event occurs from April through September. If you don't receive a response within 30 minutes, call the Department of Environmental Law Enforcement Radio Room which is staffed 24/7 at 1-800-632-8075.


Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center in Worcester Moving Forward: Update
On Tuesday, April 21st, at 8:30 a.m., Charlene Perkins Cutler, Executive Director of the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. will be available to answer questions about the new visitor center planned for Worcester. She will also be discussing the new GO! Program. This coffee hour will be held at the Heritage Corridor Office located at One Depot Square in Woonsocket. R.S.V.P. to Barbara Dixon at 401-762-0250 ext. 5503 or


Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz 2015
The Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) is found throughout North America. However, it has been experiencing a severe decline in numbers. An effort is underway to document their numbers and location. Unlike other species of blackbirds, the Rusty Blackbird breeds in wetlands like bottomland woodlands in the northern coniferous (boreal) zone.

During migration, these birds use a variety of habitats, especially areas with shallow water. For Massachusetts, this migration occurs from mid-March through April. The images here illustrate how they look similar to common grackles with some distinguishing characteristics. Additional identification help can be found at

If you do spot a Rusty Blackbird, contact one of the following: or
Male Common Grackles (left) have glossy purple heads, heavy bills, and elongated bodies. In the spring, male Rusty Blackbirds (right) are a glossy black with a more slender bill and a less wedge-shaped tail.
comparison of Rusty Blackbird to Common Grackle



Blackstone River Fisheries
At the recent BRC Water Quality Monitoring Summit, the keynote speaker was Richard Hartley, Fishery Biologist with the Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. His coverage of fisheries in the Blackstone was chosen as the event's special topic in order to highlight the BRC's Campaign for a Fishable/Swimmable Blackstone. Information from Richard's presentation was used for this newsletter article. Alan Libby, fisheries biologist with the RI Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), provided additional information for the R.I. portion of the watershed.

The Blackstone River Watershed has 125 named rivers and streams. Since 1998, the DFW has surveyed 94 of these in addition to nine lakes and ponds. There have been an additional 29 "unnamed tributaries" that the DFW has surveyed since 2000. RIDEM has surveyed an additional 45 streams in ponds in its state.
Mass DFW Surveys in the Blackstone Watershed.
Map of Mass DFW Surveys in the Blackstone Watershed

The vast majority of fish species documented in Massachusetts can be found within the Blackstone River watershed. These 32 species include, among others, sunfish, trout, darters, bass, perch, pickerel, and carp. Some of these reside in lakes and ponds, while others are found in the rivers and streams. In Rhode Island, 33 of the 78 species documented in that state's freshwaters can be found within the Blackstone watershed.
Brook Trout.
Map of Mass DFW Surveys in the Blackstone Watershed

Left: Blacknose Dace.
Right: Chain Pickerel
Blacknose Dace Chain Pickerel

Anadromous species, those that split their life history between salt water and fresh water, include salmon, shad, and herring. There is evidence that they could be found in the Blackstone prior to the use of dams for manufacturing during the industrial revolution. These dams, regardless of current use and condition, continue to serve as a barrier for anadromous fish to move into the watershed.

The following table lists fish species found in the Blackstone watershed including those considered indicators of good water quality.

  • American brook   lampey*
  • banded killifish
  • banded sunfish*
  • black crappie
  • blacknose dace
  • bluegill
  • brook trout*
  • brown bullhead
  • brown trout*
  • chain pickerel
  • common carp
  • common shiner
  • creek chubsucker*
  • fallfish
  • golden shiner
  • goldfish
  • green sunfish
  • largemouth bass
  • longnose dace
  • northern pike*
  • pumpkinseed
  • rainbow trout*
  • redbreast sunfish
  • redfin pickerel
  • rock bass
  • smallmouth bass
  • swamp darter*
  • tesselated darter
  • white perch
  • white sucker
  • yellow bullhead
  • yellow perch
  • * indicator for good water quality

    According to DFW surveys, there are 50 cold water fisheries resources (CFRs) identified so far in the Massachusetts portion of the Blackstone watershed. 24 of these have been added in the last 15 years, indicating that our understanding of the system is far from complete. The CFRs that are sampled by the BRC's volunteer WQM program include the following: Tatnuck Brook, Ararat Brook, Cold Spring Brook, Coal Mine Brook, Poor Farm Brook, Sewell Brook, Miscoe Brook, and Warren Brook in the Headwaters portion; Centerville Brook, Cook Allen Brook, West River, Center Brook, Emerson Brook, and Bacon Brook in the Midreach portion; and the Peters River, Millers River, Sneech Brook, Crookfall Brook, Chepatchet River, and Clear River in the R.I. portion.

    The Mass DFW and RIDEM stock trout in more than a dozen waterways in the watershed including the Mill River in Mendon and Blackstone, the Mumford River in Douglas, the Quinsigamond River in Grafton, the West River in Upton, Northbridge, and Uxbridge, Singletary Pond in Sutton, Abbots Run Brook in Cumberland, the Branch, Chepatchet, and Clear Rivers in Burrillville, and the Blackstone River itself in Cumberland and Lincoln. Try your hand at catching one!



    recycle symbol enveloping planet Earth Herb Gardens
    Try your thumb at sustainable agriculture by creating your own herb garden. This time of year, you just need a sunny windowsill, simple containers like recycled yogurt containers or toilet paper rolls, a basic soil mix, and a variety of seeds like thyme, oregano, basil, dill, marjoram, parsley, and mint. And try all the zesty, colorful varieties - don't just settle for the boring standard store-bought type.

    For more information on using toilet paper rolls, go to
    3 pots of herbs - parsley, basil, chives.



    “It is not half so important to know as to feel.” Rachel Carson

    I recently had the great pleasure to hear Mark Erelli perform. Mark is a New England-based singer songwriter in the best tradition of storytelling and impassioned lyrics. ( He also has a Masters degree in evolutionary biology! One of his songs is entitled "Passing Through", and I feel that his words speak to our collective dream of engaging those around us, especially the next generation, to take up the cause of environmental protection. I've included the verses below. Enjoy and be inspired!
    table class="image" align="center">
    Mark Erelli
    Photo by Suzanne Davis Photography
    Mark Erelli performing with acoustic guitar.  Birch trees in background.

    We are passing this world on to our kids
    From the moment that they climb out of their cribs
    We try to teach them well
    And show them they are loved
    But in the end all we can do
    Is hope our best is good enough
    For they'll witness how this life
    Can be so beautiful and cruel
    We can't shelter them forever
    But if we show them all the tools
    They might leave this place in
    A little better shape than me and you
    We are only passing through

    We've been watching this world from our living rooms
    It's been near 40 years since we walked on the moon
    And this big blue ball keeps shrinking
    And I don't know if that's good
    But for better or for worse now
    This whole world's our neighborhood
    There's no place left to run to
    Where you can stay above the fray
    We all learn to need to get along
    And not just get our way
    Not only for each other but
    For our children's children too
    We are only passing through

    I wonder sometimes what I will pass on
    And how much can one voice do with just a song
    Sometimes injustice and indifference
    Are the only things I see
    But I refuse to let my hope
    Become the latest casualty
    So I'll sing of love and truth
    And try to practice all I preach
    And if I can't change the world
    I'll change the world within my reach
    And what better place to start
    Than here and now with me and you
    We are only passing through

    Click here to see Mark perform "Passing Through" live.

    Photo and lyrics reprinted with permission of the artist.


    Views & opinions expressed in linked websites do not necessarily state or reflect those of the BRWA.

    Your input is crucial to this eNewsletter. If you have a local watershed-related story, information of interest to our subscribers, or comments about this publication, drop an email to the editor.

    The Blackstone River Watershed Association (BRWA) has a mission to engage, educate, and advocate for improved water quality in the Blackstone River Watershed; its objectives are to:
    • Engage the public in watershed stewardship activities,
    • Educate members, supporters, and residents on watershed protection strategies, and
    • Advocate to local residents, community leaders, non-profit partners, and state regulators to take actions that will help to ensure our waterways continue to provide healthy habitat and enjoyable recreational opportunities.
    The BRWA eNewsletter is published monthly by the Blackstone River Watershed Association. BRWA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

    Editor: Susan Thomas
    Mailing address: BRWA, 271 Oak Street Uxbridge, MA 01569
    Phone: 508-278-5200  Web:

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