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Blog - Charles River Watershed Association

Take action to protect the environment and the Charles River

Posted by Alexandra Ash

3/24/17 2:11 PM

Looking for ways to get more involved in in protecting the environment? Let your voice be heard! Now more than ever, effective laws, policies, regulations, and permits, and their strong implementation at the local, state and federal levels matter for the environment and the Charles River. Grassroots action often makes the difference. Sign up for The River Current, CRWA’s e-newsletterto receive action alerts and project news. Below are a few ideas to get you started.  

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In Bellingham, the Charles River now flows more freely

Posted by Elisabeth Cianciola

3/23/17 2:40 PM

Charles River Flows Free

The Charles River after the removal of the  Old Mill Dam in Bellingham. Photo by Allen Orsi. 

After more than a year spent permitting the project and four months of on-site work dredging sediment and deconstructing the Old Mill Dam, the Charles River now flows freely from the North Bellingham dam to the West Medway dam. Although revegetation of the river banks and the newly-capped backwatering area that has been filled with dredged sediment will take several months (not much will grow through the recent snow!), the restoration project is now complete with the exception of the construction of a stormwater treatment basin that will clean runoff from Pearl Street before it makes its way to the river.

 

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Proposed changes to NPDES permitting threaten Massachusetts' rivers

Posted by Margaret VanDeusen

3/13/17 5:05 PM

Last week Governor Baker reintroduced a bill opposed by environmentalists last legislative session that would allow Massachusetts to take over the water pollution permitting program from U.S. EPA. Under the federal Clean Water Act, EPA currently regulates discharges of stormwater, wastewater and industrial pollution into our waterways.  The governor’s bill would enable the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to assume “primacy” for issuing these permits, known as National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, permits. 

Charles River Watershed Association, the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance and other environmental groups oppose this bill because it will provide no environmental benefit and cost MA taxpayers millions of dollars each year. MassDEP is also already struggling to perform core monitoring, assessment, reporting and research on water quality across the state.  

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The Muddy River Then and Now: Water Quality in 2006 vs. 2016

Posted by Elisabeth Cianciola

1/23/17 5:33 PM

The Muddy River, which runs a course of 2.9 miles from Jamaica Pond to the Charles River, is the most significant tributary of the lower Charles River. As a prominent feature of the famous Emerald Necklace parks, its fate was marginally better than most tributaries of the lower Charles in that it was only partially buried and not completely buried in the frenzy to make more land available around Boston in the early 1900’s. Nonetheless, the river was seriously impacted by this human interference. The river lost some of its natural ability to flush sediment that accumulates in the river as a result of stormwater runoff and was unable to adequately dissipate flooding across its floodplain. Severe flooding in the 1990’s made it clear that the human-altered Muddy River system was not working, and an effort to restore the river’s natural characteristics was needed.

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Removing dams can improve river health

Posted by Alexandra Ash

12/20/16 10:09 AM

Updated 3/23/17

Built to generate power for industry in the 18th and 19th centuries, dams served an important role in the history of the Charles River watershed. However, dams slowed the flow of the Charles River, hampering its ability to cleanse itself. Dams also prevented migratory river herring from reaching upstream reaches of the river to spawn. While some Charles River dams provide flood control, many of the dams on the Charles River bring more problems than benefits. When dams become obsolete, their removal can benefit rivers and the surrounding communities. These Frequently Asked Questions discuss the benefits and challenges of dam removal. 

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The Year in Review- Highlights from 2016

Posted by Alexandra Ash

12/14/16 9:59 AM

2016 marked important milestones for the restoration of the Charles River and its watershed: the elimination of heat pollution from the Kendall Power Plant, the daylighting of the Muddy River, and the removal of the hazardous sandbar near Brighton. 2016 also saw the worst drought since the 1960's, persistent stormwater pollution, another cyanobacteria bloom in the Charles River Lower Basin, and the nomination of a new US EPA Administrator who questions climate change. Through it all, CRWA passionately continued our work throughout the watershed developing smart, green water infrastructure, promoting restorative ways to reduce stormwater pollution and flooding, and advocating for strong and effective water policy and regulations. We couldn't have done this work without you—thank you! 

Below are just a few of the highlights from 2016. 

 

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Record-breaking Season for CRWA’s Canoeing for Clean Water Program

Posted by Elisabeth Cianciola

12/2/16 1:51 PM

water-chestnuts-web.jpg

Volunteers pull invasive water chestnuts in the Charles River Lakes District.

Despite the emergence of water chestnut plants in the Lower Charles River Basin and on the Charles River in Cutler Park, the 2016 season of CRWA’s Canoeing for Clean Water program was a success.

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CRWA’s Water Quality Notification Program Completes 15th Season

Posted by Elisabeth Cianciola

11/9/16 12:21 PM

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CRWA volunteer Max Dulieu boats to the sampling site.

Since 2002, CRWA has partnered with boathouses in the Lower Charles River Basin to communicate potential public health risks to Charles River users during summer months. In the early years of the program, CRWA scientists would run recent rainfall data through simple models in Microsoft Excel first thing in the morning to estimate the concentrations of E. coli bacteria at four locations on the river: the North Beacon Street Bridge, the Larz Anderson Bridge, the BU Bridge, and the Longfellow Bridge. Our staff would then call boathouses to tell them which color flag they should fly: blue when there were no predicted public health risks and red when predicted E. coli bacteria levels exceeded the Massachusetts water quality standard for boating: 1,260 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters. CRWA also recorded predictions on a “hotline” that river users could call to find out the water quality predictions for the day.

 

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First dam removal on the Charles River begins

Posted by Elisabeth Cianciola

10/26/16 12:01 PM

Bellingham Old Mill Dam

The Old Mill Dam on Pearl Street in Bellingham. 

12/20/2016 Update: The removal of the Old Mill Dam in Bellngham has begun!

 

This year, the Town of Bellingham will begin work to remove the Old Mill Dam on Peal Street in Bellingham, making Mill Dam the first Charles River dam to be removed. The Town of Bellingham is the first town to begin a dam removal project in the Charles River Watershed. This project was made possible with financial support from the Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Program and technical support from the Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (DER). Removing the dam, which is unsafe in its current state, will reconnect 9.2 miles of river habitat upstream of the dam to 50 miles of unobstructed river downstream. 

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Making Way for the Head of the Charles!

Posted by Alexandra Flowers

10/21/16 5:37 PM

Head of the Charles

Boston skyline from the BU Bridge during the 2014 Head of the Charles Regatta. Source: Bill Damon | CC BY 2.0

Early on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, CRWA interns and volunteers head out on the Charles River along with many others. As rowers head out to prepare for the world renowned race, The Head of the Charles Regatta, we are preparing to test the quality of the water. As we begin our long journey down the Charles to the Longfellow bridge in a small motor boat (trying to dodge all the rowers along the way), we finally make it to the furthest point of our trek about two hours later. We shut the boat off to prepare sample bottles. We will sample water from the Charles River near four different bridges.

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About Charles River Watershed Association:

One of the country's oldest watershed organizations, Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) was formed in 1965 in response to public concern about the declining condition of the Charles. Since its earliest days of advocacy, CRWA has figured prominently in major clean-up and watershed protection efforts, working with government officials and citizen groups from 35 Massachusetts watershed towns from Hopkinton to Boston. Initiatives over the last fifty years have dramatically improved the quality of water in the watershed and fundamentally changed approaches to water resource management.