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
email@example.com 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.
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
Family Fun Fishing Day
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
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
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
www.punoftheday.com to get you
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
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;
Central Mass Chapter Trout Unlimited Monthly Meeting.
6:30 -9:00 p.m. Auburn Sportsman's Club. 50 Elm Street, Auburn, MA.
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!
Blackstone River Watershed Council Monthly Meeting.
6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Lincoln RI.
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:
firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
BRWA Board Meeting.
6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 287 Oak St., Uxbridge.
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.
Friends of Upton State Forest / MA DCR Park Serve Day.
9:00 a.m. to noon. For info, call 508-278-6486 or email
Manchaug Pond Cleanup.
9:00 a.m. to noon. info
Lake Singletary Cleanup.
8:00 a.m. to noon. Meet at boat ramp.
Blackstone River Watershed Council Open House.
11:00 a.m. 100 New River Road, Manville, RI.
Blackstone Canal Clean Up.
8 - noon 15 St. Paul St., Blackstone, MA.
For info, contact Dave Barber 508-478-4918 or email
Family Fun Fishing Day. 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. River Bend Farm.
See above for more information.
BRWA Board Meeting.
6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 287 Oak St., Uxbridge.
BRWA's "A Day on the Blackstone".
See above for more information.
THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL
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.
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.
Year to Year
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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 (www.zaptheblackstone.org) 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
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:
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.
SPOTLIGHT ON SCIENCE
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.
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.
Left: Blacknose Dace.
Right: 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*
|* 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!
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
“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">
Photo by Suzanne Davis Photography
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.