On Tuesday April 11th TRWA began the 2017 sampling season. Almost 30 trained volunteers sampled all 19 watershed sampling locations. Despite seasonal high flows and dilution we found elevated nitrogen levels at seven locations in April although levels were substantially lower than the peaks measured during last summer’s drought. To see our sampling results for 2017 and 2016 click on the Water Quality Monitoring tab at the top of the home page and then the picture of the sample bottles.
The Taunton River carries a high percentage of treated wastewater during the summer. Water quality and aquatic life diversity has been improving with each improvement in treatment plant effluent quality and sewer system integrity. Fortunately all the major treatment plants in the watershed except Somerset and Fall River whose permits have not been reissued yet are scheduled to remove significant amounts of nitrogen within the next 5 years. Removal of this nitrogen load will result in the next leap in ecological, recreational and economic benefit for the citizens of the watershed. As demonstrated so clearly by the successful Boston Harbor clean up; clean water not only benefits fish and wildlife but people and the economy as well.
The clean up of the Charles River and Boston Harbor now the cleanest urban river and harbor in the nation resulted in a million dollar a year fishing industry, tourism, beach openings, property value growth, and spurred unprecedented economic opportunity in the Boston Seaport District. We are fortunate to be poised to make similar progress in Mount Hope Bay and the Taunton River within the next half dozen years once the treatment plants in the watershed achieve their nitrogen removal targets. Many years ago Mount Hope Bay was once famous for its extremely productive and valuable flounder fishery. TRWA volunteer sampler efforts are supporting and monitoring this progress.
TRWA issued its 2016 Water Quality Report Card. TRWA monitors 19 locations along the Taunton River and its tributaries. A major concern for the watershed is nutrient pollution from nitrogen. Nitrogen levels in the main stem are often 2-5 times recommended levels and much higher in tributary streams. High nutrient levels fuel algae and rooted aquatic plant blooms limiting biodiversity in the watershed. Currently about 66% of the nitrogen load comes from wastewater treatment plants which are being required to upgrade to remove excessive nitrogen loads from their discharges over the next five years.
This past May, a dead adult sea lamprey was observed at Oliver Mill Park in Middleborough. The fish had migrated up the river to spawn on the Nemasket and having completed its life cycle, died and was washed up on the banks. It was 30” long.
There are two lamprey species native to Massachusetts waters, the American Brook Lampry (Lethenteron appendix) (which is a threatened population in the state) and the Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus).
The fellow found on the Nemasket was a Sea lamprey with its typical yellow spawning pigmentation. Sea lampreys are anadromous, they migrate from the ocean to freshwater to spawn. Sea Lampreys, when they enter the fresh water rivers to spawn, stop feeding, as all their energies are focused on reproduction, so they are not a threat to inland fisheries (like in the Great Lakes region, where Sea Lamprey predation have had a huge impact on restoring local fisheries.) Young lamprey can remain in freshwater for to five years living on the bottom as filter feeders. It is only in maturity, that the lamprey become parasitic, returning to the ocean and live for two years feeding off of other fish species fluids and tissues before returning to fresh water systems to spawn and then die.
There have been some studies of the Sea Lamprey populations in the Connecticut River Watershed. The fact that Sea Lampreys are present in the Taunton River watershed is an indication of the river system’s improving health.
Link to Mass Div. of Fisheries & Wildlife fact sheets on Sea Lamprey:
The TRWA is pleased to announce it will be funding a technician to formally investigate the Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemy terrapin) population of Assonet Bay located in Southern Massachusetts. This population and its nesting beach have been documented for several years, but no rigorous studies have been conducted to determine and record the abundance, sex ratio, or age structure of this population. Such a study would provide crucial information for conservation and management of this, and other populations of state threatened species. The goal of this study will be to provide a comprehensive research report that can be shared with conservation partners and set up the
basis for long term study of survivorship and site fidelity. The study will involve the use of floated hoop traps, which were used successfully in the 2015 Allens Pond (Westport) terrapin survey. Diamond Back Terrapins are found along the east coast and are Massachusett’s only brackish water turtle species. They are listed as threatened on the State’s Natural Heritage Endangered Species list. Watch our site for more information on this study