4. RECOMMENDATIONS

Based on the evaluations of the 117 issues in Section 3, the following are the recommended priority issues and/or tasks for the NCW Watershed. Most issues and tasks are combined into grouped recommendations, with item numbers referring to the public input list from Section 3, along with which goals from Section 2 each recommendation most addresses. These recommendations are intended as guidelines for seeking funding for community groups. They are in rough order of priority but related recommendations are juxtaposed for coherence.

4A. Study and rehabilitate closed coastal shellfish beds

The NCW’s shellfish beds along most of the NCW coast have been closed for many years, but clamming on the beaches was once an integral part of those communities. Shellfish bed health can serve as a proxy for general marine health, and would be a very visible indicator of improvement. The loss of eelgrass is a related issue. Some NCW shellfish beds remain open, in Gloucester and Essex for example, while those which are in closer proximity to contamination sources and population centers have remained closed.

We recommend a study noting which beaches once had shellfish beds, and what is needed to return them to safe sources of food. Only older residents now remember the traditional shellfish beds, and documenting that tradition would serve as public outreach as well as an impetus for cleanup. Shellfish could generate millions of dollars and has one of the strongest economic multipliers of any business, and hence closed shellfish beds is as much about job generation as about ecology. The study might include an economic component of the recreational and financial value of shellfishing in the past and the potential value of reopening shellfish beds. We also recommend working with DMF to prioritize the shellfish beds by their potential economic importance and the amount of effort required to reopen them. A related survey might include which beaches are closed to swimming, for what percentage of each summer.

Prioritization could be based on quality of the resource -- i.e. marketable quantities of shellfish, likelihood of success, etc.  In some cases it may be possible to re-open shellfish beds just for restricted digging such as harvesting of bait.  (Public Input Items 34, 39 through, 41; Goals 1, 2, and 5).

4B. Initiate and develop salt marsh recreational and ecological survey

Salt marshes in Salem Sound have been reduced from 185 acres to 65 acres since 1960. Rumney Marsh to the south and the Great Marsh to the north face similar problems.

Rumney Marsh is an under-utilized recreational resource, especially for canoeing, kayaking, birdwatching, and perhaps other activities. Rumney Marsh is also the site of a potentially very large project, the Blue Line extension. A recreational survey, perhaps with a species catalog of flora and fauna, would publicize the issues of what are the potential problems of a major construction project in a fragile ecosystem (which is also an ACEC). The previous plan for Rumney Marsh included a species list along with a list of projects dedicated to restoring flow and habitat, and a follow-up could be done with recreational focus. Similar efforts should be done for the Great Marsh and for smaller marshes in NCW, with a focus on restoration, mitigation and enhancement.

The same could apply to the potential expansion of Route 1 at nearby Town Line Brook. A more general study might encompass transportation growth needs in general, in relation to protected wetland areas. The potential expansion of Route 1 in this region is an opportunity to correct some of the long time drainage and flooding problems associated with Town Line and Linden Brook, including upgrading the Town Line flood gates to make them safer to operate. (Public Input Items 23, 31, 32, 63; Goals 2 and 1).

4C. Reinstitute beach maintenance & develop area beach manage­ment plans

The NCW includes some of Massachusetts’ finest beaches, but the beaches in the more densely populated areas are not as well maintained as the popular beaches on Cape Anne. With the advent of the Blue Line extension to Lynn, the beaches near there will likely become as popular as Revere Beach, which already has a Blue Line station. Revere Beach itself, despite its history as America’s first public beach and its current heavy usage, is not treated as a community-wide resource. Older residents throughout the watershed recall when public high school students cleaned the beaches as a weekly routine. Reinstituting that sort of practice would generate public awareness and would increase membership for the sponsoring organization, as well as promote cleaner beaches at less public expense. Regular beach cleanups might also identify sources of water pollution and other beach contaminants. Several local watershed groups already run river cleanups. A regular beach cleanup would be well within their scope. Management plans might include community-based beach cleanup but might also include less maintenance, such as not removing bird-feeding materials (Public Input Items 35, 37, 47; Goals 5 and 3).

4D. Expand river and lake cleanups

Existing programs of regular river cleanups should be extended to other rivers in NCW and to some of the larger lakes as well. The lakes in particular are not viewed as recreational resources, and an event that focused on their cleanliness would serve to change public awareness (most polluted lakes are open to swimming and boating at least part of the year) as well as increase awareness of what needs to be done to foster more healthy lakes and rivers.

Specific issues include fly ash in Wenham Lake; algae buildup in Lake Quannapowitt; water quality issues in Chebacco Lake; and the general annual cleanup of the Saugus River by SRWC and smaller river cleanups by SSCW. While the fly ash and algae cannot be removed by volunteer labor on a weekend, they can perform regular cleanup and be made aware of the more difficult environmental issues. River and lake cleanups serve at several levels: they can generate publicity; they improve both the quality and the aesthetics of the resource; and most important the power citizen involvement. Regular cleanups might lead to additional studies on addressing pollution sources, analyzing the surrounding area’s hydrology, etc. (Public Input Items 7 through 12; Goals 3, 5, and 6)

4E. Publicize and reduce contaminated stormwater runoff

Non-point source pollution is a major source of problems in NCW lakes, rivers, and ultimately beaches. The major sources are:

·      fertilizers and herbicides from lawns;

·      pet waste (as well as animal waste from semi-tame Canadian geese);

·      leaching from contaminated soils and groundwater, from historical industrial activity;

·      nutrients from on-site septic systems; and

·      runoff of sediment, road salt, petroleum products, and heavy metals from impervious surfaces.

The target of this recommendation is the general public and local officials. The general public is generally unaware of the connection between their activities and water pollution. Local officials are often unaware of inexpensive practices that would greatly reduce contaminated runoff. Some specific sub-recommendations:

·         Citizens are generally unaware of the connection of their lawn maintenance (fertilizers and herbicides) on water quality in nearby lakes, so the primary issue is publicity about them. A brochure on lawn fertilizers can be found at http://www.mass.gov/dep/brp/wm/files/fertiliz.pdf  

·         Citizens are generally unaware of the connection between pet waste and water quality as well. A brochure on this subject can be found at http://www.mass.gov/dep/brp/wm/files/petwaste.pdf

·         Establishing buffer zones along lakes with nearby lawns (such as Lake Quannapowitt) would be effective, especially where no buffer zones exist at all.

·         Educate communities to consider permit and development strategies that address stormwater runoff – implementing BMPs that reduce runoff, beneficial stormwater recharge, buffer zones, and Low Impact Development (LID) in general.

·         Problems caused by roads and impervious surfaces in general will increase in the future, and a base study estimating current runoff quantities of each pollutant would be valuable for future comparison.

MassGIS has been planning an “impervious surface layer” for some time – its completion would provide data about the issue in NCW relative to the rest of the state. (Public Input Items 13 through 22; Goals 3 and 6)

4F. Restore and Protect Water Quality/ Reduce Pathogens

This general recommendation applies to the NCW’s rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds, as well as coastal marine waters. Eliminating point sources of pollution (primarily CSOs) and reducing non-point sources (detailed in 4E) make for a starting point.

Some of the recommendations of DEP’s 1997/1998 Water Quality Assessment of the North Coastal Watersheds remain unimplemented. We recommend continuing and expanding stormwater monitoring through regular bacterial sampling of streams and outfalls in the Salem Sound watershed and elsewhere in the NCW.  Some specific sub-recommendations:

·         Innovative use of the State Revolving Fund for septic improvement.

·         Better use (via publicity, perhaps) of the income tax credit for septic improvement. Current tax credit is $6,000 for correcting failed septic systems.

·         Fix illicit sewer connections to reduce pathogens and monitor existing and fixed systems.

·         Rehabilitate old sewer systems (for example, Salem’s was built in 1906!)

·         Communities need guidance in evaluating upgrades of sewer systems (septic vs. town systems). A useful manual is at http://www.epa.gov/region1/topics/assets/pdfs/OWTSFactSheetFINAL.pdf .

·         Better use of “Watershed Aquifer Protection” for legal protection upstream-to-downstream.

·         Aquifer protection extends to drinking water protection, management, and planning. A buildout analysis appears in Appendix M to assist with analysis, for determining where additional protection is appropriate.

·         Address / publicize pet cleanup as a water quality issue

·         Reduce public geese feeding, especially along lakes (such as Lake Quannapowitt) where geese and people both congregate. Goose waste is a major source of bacterial runoff.

This general recommendation is related to the more specific recommendation above regarding contaminated runoff. Details about the numerous issues involved with both these recommendations are provided in Appendix C, in three related topics areas:  C12, contaminated stormwater issues; C13, impervious surface runoff; and C14, wastewater issues. (Public Input Items 28, 42 through 52, and 13 through 19; Goals 1 and 3).

4G. Protect, evaluate, and restore sensitive habitat

The ecological integrity of the NCW is at risk because of numerous sensitive habitats throughout the watershed which are under development pressure from population growth. At-risk habitat should be protected where intact, evaluated where lost, and restored once evaluated. This general recommendation covers numerous subtopics:

·         Wingaersheek Beach contains the only sand dunes off Cape Cod (other than the demise of dunes along Revere Beach the geology of the intervening areas probably does not support barrier beaches or dune formation)

·         Heath lands and grasslands in Lynn Woods and Cape Anne

·         Eelgrass habitat in shallow marine areas of Nahant, Beverly, and Manchester provide marine juvenile nursery habitat

·         Vernal pools are a unique habitat which are under-catalogued in NCW

·         Direct habitat loss affects salt marshes and other wetlands

·         Marine and terrestrial invasive species are a major issue especially in Salem Sound

·         Marine invasives primarily from ballast water and shipping and food production

Invasive species are a major threat in the NCW to sensitive habitat. While invasive species are recognized by ecologists the issue is mostly unknown to the general public. This researcher saw numerous examples of general acceptance of invasive species as normal – from bouquets of phragmites to calendar photos featuring purple loosestrife. Groups should consider including them as part of other grant proposals instead of as the main focus.  Including invasive species as part of a general category of “sensitive habitat” would be a more effective means of educating the public on this issue. (Public Input Items 74 through 80; Goal 2).

4H. Maintain natural water flow regime

Low river flow is the source of many problems in NCW. Maintaining an adequate – and preferably natural – water flow would improve aquatic ecosystem viability, would help with base flow flood control, would ensure viability of the drinking water supply, would help ensure public safety via fire control water pressure, and would improve aesthetics and recreation. An improved flow would also aid with anadromous fish restoration as detailed in the next recommendation. Some specifics for water flow:

·         Reduce or eliminate flow manipulation wherever possible.

·         Consider dam removal where feasible.

·         Reduce intra-basin transfers including wastewater.

·         Beneficial infiltration to maintain base flow.

·         Alleviate tidal restrictions.

·         Promote Low Impact Development (LID).

(Public Input Items 4, 53, 56 through 60, 62 through 65; Goals 4 and 2).

4I. Restore anadromous fish habitat

Anadromous fish restoration is needed in several rivers in the watershed, especially the Saugus River, where the focus is on river herring (alewife). In general, low flow is the problem, and maintaining adequate flow would help fish runs. All data points to major loss of viability of anadromous fish populations, and that the number of spawning adults is down.

In the absence of adequate flow, and in the presence of dams, fish ladders would assist anadromous fish runs. Studies of this issue would include: fish ladder feasibility studies, fish counts, study of spawning habitat. The goal would be to restore the last century’s fish runs of thousands, all the way up to Lake Quannapowitt, but the water has to be there for any projects to work.  (Public Input Items 4, 9-11, 62-65, 81, 87-89, 91; Goals 2 and 4).

4J. Watershed-wide flood planning

Flood protection and flood planning was independently cited as an issue in several different communities around NCW. Besides focusing on individual solutions to each flooding issue, we recommend a watershed-wide focus on information sharing and lessons-learned from flood control, both from elsewhere in the NCW and from other watersheds. The Watershed Team (or a specialist in flood control who traveled to the several towns listed) could serve as an information source on BMPs and on establishing the need and benefit for flood control.

A related sub-recommendation is: Improve the watershed’s physical characteristics and functions by specific flood prevention. Physical watershed functions should be addressed in an ecologically sensitive way, avoiding drastic and permanent solutions like the multi-mile wall proposed by the ACE, known as “The Great Wall of Saugus.”

In general, hydrological studies are partially complete but their recommendations remain unimplemented.  The ecological benefits of flood control also should be more integrated into other flood planning. Flood control measures should account for anadromous fish migrations. (Public Input Items 53 through 63; Goal 4).

4K. Watershed-wide open space planning

Several local groups focus on “greenbelts” and parks in one area. There is an additional need for information sharing between those groups, which could be served through the Watershed Team. The NCW Team, or a traveling specialist, could host focus groups on open space issues. These focus groups would include examples of successful open space conservation from other nearby towns, bylaw and zoning changes for implementing “Conservation  Subdivisions,” information about conservation easements, etc.

The focus groups should start with Conservation Commissioners and Zoning Board members, but should also include Planning Board members, city staff responsible for open space planning, representatives from permit-granting authorities, as well as elected officials and their staff.  The purpose should be education on the conservation and ecological goals of open space planning as well as input from focus group participants on their goals.
(Public Input Items 67 through 73, 92, 98, 99; Goals 2, 1, and 6).

4L. Preserve and protect farmland

Farmland represents large parts of the open space remaining in the NCW. Farms also provide habitat, but are currently being reduced by seven to 15 acres per day[9] statewide. Fostering “buy local food” initiatives provides a financial boost for local farms. This recommendation includes an education and outreach aspect. (Items 27, 68, 69). Some specific sub-recommendations:

·         Foster “Agricultural Commissions” on a regional basis if possible, or on a town basis. Purpose would be to inform the public, elected officials, and their staff about agricultural issues, analogous to Conservation Commissions.

·         Provide information on direct financial benefit of farms (local food, local jobs) as well as the indirect benefits such as wildlife habitat, historical resources, and open space.

·         Make tie-in to other environmental issues, especially CO2 reduction, by reducing food transportation due to local purchasing. Farmland also provides CO2 sequestration.

(Public Input Items 27, 69 98, 117; Goals 1 and 2).

4M. Implement the Grow Smart North Shore Open Space Plan

The Watershed Team endorses the Grow Smart North Shore Open Space Plan as its open space guidance. The recommendations there should be considered recommendations of this action plan as well. The Open Space plan is available on our website, www.northcoastal.net/ncw/Docs/GrowSmartNorthShore.pdf .

Some of the Grow Smart recommendations are outdated, so some specific recommendations focus supporting sustainable growth and planning and implementation for that support:

·         Support the Green Neighborhood Alliance.

·         Plan for adequate water supply to meet growth in demand.

·         Conduct a watershed wide assessment of DEP’s Comprehensive Survey of Public Water Supply.

·         Redevelop abandoned and under utilized properties.

·         Support local Open Space Committees and an Open Space Committee network.

(Public Input Items 54, 61, 67 through 73, 92, 95, 99; Goals 6 and 1).

4N. Direct outreach to communities / build sense of stewardship

Environmental groups and watershed teams tend to “preach to the choir,” and hence there is a need for public outreach. Outdoor public Earth Day activities, and focusing on high school students, are good solutions to this problem. The to-be-produced NCW video would serve well as an introductory tool for both those audiences as well as others. (Public Input Items 104 through 107). Including greenbelt organizations, chambers of commerce, and major industries would widen the watershed dialog to other stakeholders.

There are numerous effective watershed groups, conservation groups, and open-space groups throughout the watershed but they often do not work together towards mutual goals. This reflects in part the diverse geography of the watershed and also reflects in part the lack of MWI impetus. Several of the recommendations focus on watershed-wide actions – in general, including chambers of commerce, major industries, boards of health, Conservation Commissions, as well as local environmental groups would gain. (Public Input Items 100 through 117).

The NCW region has little cohesive identity, since it lacks the unifying river that most watersheds have. Hence liaison activity with other North Shore watersheds – specifically the Ipswich River Watershed, the Merrimack River Watershed, and the Parker River Watershed – should be considered the larger-scale version of this recommendation.  (Public Input Items 100 through 117; Goal 6).

4O. Liaison for grant opportunities

The NCW Team should establish itself as a prime information source for grant funding news. This can be accomplished via the website and/or an e-newsletter. In the post-MWI situation, this is an important need for local groups. The local groups should send representatives to the NCW Team meetings for the purpose of liaison with other groups and to be more aware of grant opportunities. In particular, we recommend regularly inviting new participants to NCW Team meetings and making it worthwhile for them to attend by distributing grant-writing materials from fresh grant sources. Also, several Ipswich River-based groups  (e.g., Wenham Lake groups) might be included as well, because the high cross-basin transfer between NCW and Ipswich. (Items 108 through 111, 114). A list of federal and state grant opportunities appears in Appendix G. (Public Input Items 101,108, 109, 114; Goal 6).

4P. Meet watershed goals via other projects

In previous watershed action plans, the specific recommendations were directed toward the Watershed Team, to be implemented and funded over the subsequent five years. With the dissolution of the MWI, that goal can be met in concept by encouraging the implementation of the watershed initiative’s goals via other funding sources, in conjunction with other projects, and by citing the general goals of this report as evidence of ecological needs. 

The Grow Smart North Shore Open Space Plan should be considered a good example of the watershed team’s goals being well represented via other projects.  Other regional and local planning documents should be encouraged to do the same. In particular, two regional documents are forthcoming which would benefit from NCW and other watershed team input: the MAPC (Metropolitan Area Planning Council) plan and the MVPC (Merrimack Valley Planning Commission) Plan. Both should include the interests of NCW, since they are seeking bottom-up input and representation on their Steering Committee. Most immediately, the MAPC “Metro Futures” steering committee meets in summer 2004.

The same concept applies to planning documents on a smaller scale than the watershed level. Community planning, as well as sub-watershed planning, should include NCW concerns goals.  In particular, 401 Certifications are a good venue for including watershed concerns. In general, NCW team members should use this report as a means to include those concerns and goals in community planning documents. (Public Input Items 5, 66, 73, 100, 104, 110, 115; Goals 6 and 1).

 


A VISION FOR THE WATERSHED

There will be a continuing need for additional data collection in the watershed, to enhance our ability to conduct a more comprehensive assessment of watershed conditions. Other general ongoing tasks include:

·         An assessment of the composition and overall functioning of the Watershed Team, and implementation of appropriate changes to increase stakeholder representation, participation of team members in watershed activities, and the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the Team;

·         Identification of additional watershed stakeholders and recruiting new Team members;

·         An accounting of the measurable successes of the Team to date;

·         Identification and prioritization of watershed issues and concerns as this report becomes outdated;

·         Assuring active Team participation in the development of important documents, such as the new 303(d) list;

·         Working more with watershed partners in securing grants;

·         Development of a periodic watershed e-mail newsletter;

·         Further development of the watershed website, both as a means of information dissemination, and for soliciting stakeholder input on watershed and Team activities and issues.

We will also employ a multi-pronged approach that adjusts to the availability of resources, provide an effective means of adjusting to opportunities in funding, new initiatives, community interest and sufficient flexibility to adjust to the vagaries of time and resources. Recognize that meaningful change will not necessarily be exhibited in the short term speaking either in a spatial or temporal sense. Our key strategies are to implement efforts at the subwatershed level. Wherever possible we recommend utilizing pilot projects to test certain assumptions and practices and evaluate their effectiveness in different locations. Understand that in many cases a variety of resources maybe needed to accomplish long term goals and where possible the need to combine the attributes of programs, resources and communities to augment the process. Our focus will be to:

·         Integrate activities, responses and assistance to local communities and citizens with team members where ever and as often as possible,

·         Work in increments many of the issues will not be solved by the success of single action but require several actions,

·         Project local successes through collaborative demonstrations to other communities.





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