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Blog - Charles River Watershed Association

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

volunteer

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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9 Ways to Combat Cyanobacteria Blooms in the Charles River

Posted by Allie Rowe

10/10/16 3:48 PM

What is cyanobacteria? Why is it a concern?

cyanobacteria

Cyanobacteria bloom in a freshwater pond
Source: Christian Fischer | CC BY-SA 3.0

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are microorganisms that obtain their energy through photosynthesis and live in aquatic environments. Cyanobacteria populations can grow rapidly in fresh water, brackish water, or seawater during events known as “blooms.” Blooms often appear as dense green mats floating on or just below the water’s surface. Cyanobacteria blooms can produce toxins that harm humans, dogs, and wildlife. Exposure to these toxins may irritate the eyes, ears, and skin, and can also damage to the liver and nervous system. Emerging science shows a possible link to neurodegenerative diseases and a possibility of exposure through inhalation. Thick mats of cyanobacteria block sunlight and oxygen from entering the water, smothering fish and other aquatic organisms.

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Cyanobacteria Outbreak in Lower Charles River

Posted by Alexandra Ash

8/30/16 4:06 PM

Water samples collected last Thursday confirmed a cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, outbreak in the Charles River Lower Basin downstream of the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge.

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Good News for Renewable Energy

Posted by Nishaila Porter

8/24/16 12:21 PM

Energy bill signed into law
Barrow Offshore wind turbines

Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm, England.
Source: Andy Dingley, edit Muhammad | CC BY-SA 3.0


On August 8th, Governor Baker signed into law “An Act to Promote Energy Diversity.” While not perfect, the law moves Massachusetts in the right direction by supporting renewable energy.  It will allow Massachusetts to diversify its energy supply and to meet Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction mandates imposed under the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). The GWSA calls for all sectors to reduce GHG emissions by 25% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050. By facilitating the production of hydroelectric and offshore wind power, the energy law will help the Commonwealth comply with these mandates. The offshore wind power will be the nation’s first commercial scale offshore wind farm. These power sources will further advance renewable and clean power technology in Massachusetts. 

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Take a Tour of Franklin's Best Rain Gardens

Posted by Elisabeth Cianciola

8/19/16 6:28 PM

Got spare time during your drive across Franklin, MA? Check out these hidden gems that were featured in a town rain garden tour on August 17! The Town of Franklin has built and maintains an impressive 15 rain gardens across town in an effort to help capture rainwater as it flows off of streets, parking lots, and rooftops and filter it through the ground before it reaches the Charles River. These rain gardens make a huge impact keeping the river clean and healthy!

WATCH NOW: Franklin Rain Garden Tour

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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.