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Watershed News Fall 2020

President’s Address
The fires that have raged across the west this Western MA Fly-Fishermen. We gifted a fly-
fall, in the midst of a pandemic and an intense rod set to a young Boy Scout and observed the
and exhausting election, made appreciating beautiful macro-invertebrates that a fly-tier
fall colors and change all the more welcome tries to mimic. It was a beautiful fall day.
this year. I hope that you enjoyed it all and got As I write these words, the first round of
out to revel in the spaciousness of our vaccinations against COVID-19 are being
beautiful hills and valleys. performed. I keep likening it to D-Day, when
Many of you got out to participate in one of Allied Troops landed at Normandy, signaling
several river clean-ups sponsored by the the beginning of the end of WWII. But the
WRWA. In addition to our annual clean-ups in Battle of the Bulge and many others still lay
association with the Connecticut River ahead, so take courage, folks, we’ll get
Conservancy’s ‘Source-to-Sea’ events, several through this yet. And when we do, we’ll be
WRWA Board Members spear-headed the confronting challenges to a clean and
clean-up of a badly blighted area in West sustainable environment with renewed vigor.
Springfield. Nice work to all involved! Wishing you all a healthy and happy holiday
You may also have participated in our annual this year!
Bill Rose Memorial Fly-Fishing Clinic, which In solidarity with the Watershed,
we held in October. Some 20+ people turned Brian W. Conz
out and were treated to the expertise of the WRWA President

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What is Green Infrastructure?
Some of the most important challenges facing range of measures that use plant or soil systems,
cities and towns across the country (and the globe permeable pavement or other permeable surfaces
for that matter) involve the management of storm or substrates, stormwater harvest and reuse, or
water and runoff. This is important because as landscaping to store, infiltrate, or evapotranspirate
cities and towns expand, so too do pavements and stormwater and reduce flows to sewer systems or
asphalt, leading to rapid movement of rainwater to surface waters." Specific techniques of green
into storm drains and into our rivers, carrying infrastructure include rain gardens, bioswales,
many non-point source pollutants with it and permeable pavements, green roofs, and urban tree
potentially leading to flooding. This problem is canopy expansion, among many others. WRWA is
particularly acute given the effects of climate currently working with the City of Westfield to
change, where storms are shown to be growing in support the expansion of its green infrastructure.
terms of the volume of rainfall events. The Clean We’ll keep you posted on developments!
Water Act defines green infrastructure as "...the

Good Reads:
After Geo-Engineering: Climate Tragedy, that devastated Central America or the fires that
Repair and Restoration by Holly Jean Buck. have ravaged Australia and California, among
Verso. 2019. 281 pages. others. I’m finding myself considering things I
once found unthinkable.
By Brian W. Conz
In her recent book, Dr. Holly Jean Buck looks at
If you asked me 5 years ago
geoengineering surveying a variety of strategies,
what I thought of
from the terrifying Solar Radiation Management
geoengineering – tinkering
(SRM), which involves injecting sulfur particles
with the Earth system in order
into the stratosphere, to the promise of Bioenergy
to head off or mitigate the
with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), and
worst effects of climate
several more. Buck is keen to address the political
change – I likely would have
and economic concerns associated with these
responded that it was out of
strategies, highlighting the inherently undemocratic
the question. The risks are too
issues at stake when tinkering with the planet in
great and the approach is
such ways.
attractive mostly for those who put their faith in
technology in order to avoid having to make Buck’s book puts some very complex ideas into
changes to the status quo. But things have manageable prose for the layperson. Additionally,
changed, even in the past five years. It seems Buck is a science fiction writer (in her spare time!)
increasingly unlikely that we will meet targets for and she peppers her science writing with portraits
drawing down emissions. In fact, emissions of life in our warming world – in 2070
continue to rise and the climate-related disasters and beyond!
continue to unfold. Witness this year’s megastorms

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Species Spotlight: Giant puffballs
By Lauren DiCarlo, Photos by Nick Pietroniro

On a quick trip down to the Westfield River in late diameters of close to 100 inches and weighing
September, a small group of us came across several almost 50 pounds!
GIANT puffballs in the riverfront understory. Giant puffballs are considered edible in early
A herald of fall, giant puffballs, Calvatia gigantea, stages. When edible, the exterior should be pure
differ from the “typical” mushroom that we think white and when cut open, the insides should also
of. They lack gills, a stalk, and contain their spores be bright white and resemble a texture similar to
on the interior. In later stages, when broken, bread. Once the puffballs start to turn off-white
trillions of powdery spores can be released in a and spores develop, they become toxic to humans
single puff. While these puffballs found by the (as seen in the second photo). Always triple check
river were between 10 and 15 inches in diameter, mushroom identification before consuming and if
there have been reports of giant puffballs reaching you are unsure, check with a local expert. I heard
that this giant puffball was quite tasty.

Snorkeling with Big Turtle, Little Bullheads and Big Fish

By Dianne Snyder I thought it was gone, until the silt-cloud slowly
floated downstream, and revealed the turtle heading
It was after 8 pm, and I was snorkeling,
back. I followed. A few times, it turned completely
swimming/walking/pulling myself forward on
around, appearing strong as it looked-up at me,
rocks and sand, going upstream, ready to swim
holding my gaze. I back-paddled, keeping a
over the sunken sandy island towards a path up the
comfortable distance away, for both of us.
riverbank, when a turtle rushed by, in front of my
mask, from the direction I was intending to turn. It slowly walked, glided, swam onto and over a
massive submerged pile of leaves, – an area that I
After recovering from seeing quite a large
would not ordinarily have snorkeled over. (A mind
stretched-out creature scurry by, I decided to
wonders what is concealed in a swaying-in-the-
follow it, but soon lost sight. Turtle was hidden by
current loose mass of leaves?) As Turtle scaled the
a trail of sediment it stirred up, as it went deeper
pile, I was pleasantly surprised to see many 6 inch
toward the middle of the river.
juvenile bullheads (catfish) merrily swimming,

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close to the big turtle too, without fear. Inspired
by their example, I too was able to be there
without fear.
The turtle swam to the highest part of the
submerged billowy brownish-black leaf pile, and
with its back to me, took an upright position,
displaying its 18 inch long and 14 inch wide camo-
colored shell, its thick strong legs, its 12 inch long
thick and meaty cone-shaped tail, its long
expanding 14 inch neck with pointed nose
reaching up to the surface of the water, appearing
to stand on its fully extended tail, with all its legs
stretched out too, suspended on and above the
So I took my leave, swam over the submerged
underwater undulating leaves, sticking its nose
wavering loose leaf pile, and headed to the shore to
slowly and carefully a quarter of an inch above the
get out image
Satellite beforeofdark, when I spotted
the Deepwater Horizon aoil16 inch
spill, fish
surface of the river, getting a breath of fresh air in Source: NASA
resting quietly in the shadows on the bottom, in 9
the shade from trees lining the river bank, as the
feet of water. Fearless now, I paused, then dove
sun was about to go down through thin clouds
deeper to get a better look at what fish was there.
strung along the western horizon.
My best guess is that it was a big smallmouth river
I was fascinated by Turtle balancing itself in a
bass, which are quite confident around people. It
ballet, – stretching all of its limbs to remain still,
did not run away; it let me take a close look.
as it carefully inhaled, trusting that it was safe
enough, as I floated in place, 6 feet away. Since this area is easy to access, people can be
seen fishing here more than elsewhere. That
It suddenly came down from its pose, (maybe
whopper of a fish managed to survive the many
frightened by my movements looking at its nose
lures that have been thrown in front of it. (I have
above and below water), and then it slowly made
found several in the water there.)
another ascent, to stretch, balance, and gracefully
extend all limbs and its nose – just enough to Yes Dear Fish, you are too smart to bite those
pierce the surface of the river. Several seconds metal and plastic lures – good for you. I hope you
later, it hastily turned downward and disappeared make it thru this fishing season. Your hiding place
into the mass of leaves. is safe with me. See you in the river another day.

Tackling Culvert Problems in the Westfield Watershed

by Cassidy Quistorff and Jake Lehan becoming roadkill and disconnecting fish from
Reproduced with permission from the more suitable habitats upstream of the road.
NPS Website. Failing and undersized culverts and bridges disrupt
the flow of ecosystem services and jeopardize
Culverts and small bridges that make up our
transportation infrastructure by clogging with
transportation network are often an unnoticed
debris and eroding the stream channel and banks.
threat to rivers. Much like the aquatic barriers
Today, watershed groups are helping
created by dams, roads that fail to allow rivers and
municipalities prioritize the replacement of
streams to flow naturally disrupt aquatic
culverts to better serve their rivers. For the
ecosystems. Poorly designed road-stream
Commonwealth of Massachusetts, replacing these
crossings fragment habitats causing wildlife to risk

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culverts to the MA Stream Crossing Standards is a
high priority for both transportation resilience and
ecosystem health.
The Wild and Scenic Westfield River Advisory
Committee has made improving road-stream
crossings a priority. Their efforts began several
years ago when the Committee was able to engage
interns from the local university to undertake
assessments of the road-stream crossings in the
watershed. The collected data was used to
prioritize the crossing presenting the worst barriers
to connectivity. This ranking was further refined to
identify structurally compromised culverts likely
to need replacing in the near term.
Culverts that don’t provide adequate drainage can
cause structural damage to roads and bridges
causing blowouts.
The next step was to engage the Wild & Scenic
towns to identify how the Committee could help
the towns and the river address the prioritized
culverts. A further step taken was to work with
three communities with culverts at the top of the
list. The Committee took on the task of managing Jim Caffrey, the Town of Windsor representative for
and funding the initial assessment and concept the Westfield Wild and Scenic River Committee,
design work for five culverts and assisting the provided technical assistance for the culvert survey.
towns with a grant application to fund the next A major gain of properly sized culverts is stream
steps. They also served as the project manager continuity for fisheries and wildlife; Jim sees other
taking the burden off the small towns to manage exciting benefits, too. “Maybe even a bigger selling
the work. Bundling five separate culverts into one point would be storm resilience… getting worse
contract also produced a cost savings. All three pop-up storms that nobody can predict, and they’ve
towns, Becket, Cummington and Windsor been overwhelming the smaller culverts.” Storm
Massachusetts, submitted grants to further the resiliency is a major consideration when factoring
culvert replacement to MA Division of Ecological in culvert design, and according to the MDER, there
Restoration's Culvert Replacement Municipal are over 20,000 undersized culverts within the
Assistance Program. Commonwealth. This issue will only continue to
have detrimental effects as stronger storms become
In 2019, the Town of Windsor, Massachusetts more common as a result of a changing climate.
received a large grant to replace problem culverts
on Westfield’s East Branch. With funding through After receiving the MDER grant, the Town of
a stream community grants program, they were Windsor, the MA Department of Public Works, and
able to bring in professionals who provided an the Westfield Wild and Scenic River committee are
initial culvert project design. This also provided a partnering on this project to replace culverts in the
basis for a larger grant application to the Westfield watershed, set to be in place next year.
Massachusetts Department of Ecological Jim explained his excitement at the prospect of this
Restoration (MDER). successful partnership, “It’s great to be in Windsor

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and see this happening… [I’m] hoping to point to Wild and Scenic River can achieve. For Jim, he
these successes and say it wasn’t that painful wouldn’t have it any other way. “I like doing it this
[laughs] – it was a good process!” way; it’s grassroots; it’s what you make of it.”
The Westfield Wild and Scenic River offers many
exciting examples of what being a Partnership

WRWA Embraces Environmental Justice

By Student Board Member Additionally, the WRWA has created
Daizha Baptiste- Johnson subcommittees focused on community outreach
and education, which serve to impact and inform
The Westfield River Watershed Association stands
the community on local issues of environmental
in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter
justice. The association also sponsored a Fly
movement and continues to use its platform to
Fishing Clinic Event in which fly fishing experts
raise awareness to issues that affect disadvantaged
taught members of the community fishing
groups. Last spring, the association sponsored and
techniques and a free fly fishing kit was given
made plans to participate in a cross-cultural
away to an individual who needed it. The
environmental justice symposium. Although the
Westfield River Watershed Association strives to
event was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic,
enhance and protect the natural resources of the
the association was involved in hosting numerous
watershed in addition to tackling issues that affect
guest speakers and events pertaining to the cross-
the local community’s ability to enjoy, learn, and
cultural dimensions of environmental justice and
grow in the interest of an ecologically sound and
other issues affecting the community, organized at
sustainable environment for all.
Westfield State University.

Westfield River Watershed: To Heir is Apparent

By Heather Wyman available or open, and please remember to pack in-
pack out all “personal litter," travel and park on
One of the privileges bestowed upon the WRWA
durable surfaces, leave what you find, respect the
since its inception in 1953, has been to protect,
wildlife, and be considerate of others.
improve, and expand opportunities for people to
engage in our Watershed. To become better Sanderson Brook Falls: Chester, MA Chester-
stewards to the Watershed, people can simply start Blandford State Forest (DCR) 1.9 mile total out-
by looking at the river and appreciate the flowing and-back hike up a closed, and well-maintained
beauty. To become familiar, we can start to dirt forest road. The 60’ falls are directly off the
observe and identify the unique plants and wildlife road to the right. Continue exploring using the
that live in, on and around the water. To become forest roads for an extended walk. Official DCR
heirs, we must explore and immerse ourselves in map:
the trees and trails, the cellar holes and stone state-forest-trail-map/download
walls, the history and the future of what the Chesterfield Gorge: Chesterfield, MA (Trustees
Watershed holds.
of the Reservation Property) The gorge offers a
For the fall and coming winter, here are a few of stunning > 1 mile trail with safety fencing above
our favorite Family-Friendly Waterfall hikes. the Gorge. From the parking lot, you can pick up
Please remember to respect parking requests, part of the 9-mile East Branch Trail that follows
marked private property, and local COVID the river on the old dirt River Road and turn
ordinances when you go. Rest facilities may not be around at your heart’s content.
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Bearhole Reservoir: West Springfield, MA waterfall (Red Dot) < 2 mile out-and-back. You
(Soon-to-be joint DCR/Mass Audubon Property). may also continue the loop around the Reservoir
A generous parking lot off of Bear Hole Rd puts for a nice 2.5 mile walk. Bearhole Dam Road is
you at the gate to a wide, gravel path to the paved, and does include a surprising hill.

American Shad counts were up this year on the Westfield River!

Steven Mattacks, Fisheries Operations Biologist with DFW
Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW)
reports that the fish ladder at the West Springfield
dam operated well in 2020. DFW installed a
camera system last year in the counting room that
was successfully used for the 2020 season, where
motion-sensor video was recorded and viewed
weekly to count fish. The fish ladder passed 5,549
American Shad in 2020 (other species weren’t
counted this year). This is a 52% increase from the DFW is working to establish a new eel passage
long term, 24-year average (1996-2019) and up structure, which at this point is estimated to be
33% from 2019, which was 4,166. complete by 2024. There are dam repairs
scheduled to begin in 2021 which will address the
American Shad migrate up the Connecticut River
deteriorating concrete spillway crest, followed by
from the Atlantic Ocean to spawn in freshwater.
an eel migration study (2023) to determine the
Just how many Shad are on the move? Well, the
final design of the eel ladder. Eels need a separate
fish elevator on the Connecticut River in Holyoke
passage system because they cannot handle the
passed 362,423 American Shad in 2020!
high velocities of the fishway.
The fish ladder worked well this year despite the
vandalism of the old counting room/storage shed
which was burned down by arsonists the night of
August 12th, 2019. According to a Western Mass
News report from August of last year, the West
Springfield Police are offering a $5,000 reward for
information leading to the arrest and conviction of
the person(s) responsible for burning the structure
and equipment at the West Springfield fish ladder.

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Watershed board members
President: Brian Conz 999 General Knox Rd., Russell, MA 01071 572-8084
1st Vice President: Mark Damon 297 Western Ave Westfield 01085 977-1577
2nd Vice President: Ann Barone 3 Delancey St, Westfield 01085 374-9799
Secretary: Jake Lehan 577 Western Ave, Westfield, MA 01086 364-3413
Treasurer: John Pelli 32 Laro Road, Westfield, MA 01085 562-0182
Sheryl Becker 142 Beekman Dr, Agawam, MA 01001 374-1921
Daizha Baptiste-Johnson 91 Three Rivers Road Wilbraham MA 01095 309-2740
Kristen Couture 42 Spruceland Rd., Enfield, CT 06082 860-818-9083
Lauren Di Carlo 15 Angelica Drive, Westfield, Ma. 01085 572-8609
Ron Lucassen 39 Rachael Terrace, Westfield, MA 01085 568-4252
Julieanne Sobon
Dianne Snyder 6 Park St., Westfield, MA 01085 562-6126
Heather Wyman 38 Rosedell Dr, Westfield, MA 01085
Honorary Directors
Dan Call 78 Granville Road, Unit 10, Westfield 01085 364-0993

A Month of River Cleanups

Low levels of rain isn’t often good for a river, but
this month it’s helped with all the cleanups we’ve
been able to do. On September 13th, WRWA
volunteers cleaned an area in West Springfield.
Then on September 26th, in conjunction with the
Connecticut River Conservancy’s Source-to-Sea
project, two more cleanups were done along the
Westfield. One group operated out of Agawam,
beginning from the Pynchon Point area at the
mouth of the river and
The other September 26th group met in Westfield, To all our volunteers – thank you. It isn’t easy to
and fanned out to sites in Westfield and Russell, work around the public health-related restrictions
with 25 adults and 4 high school students picking associated with coronavirus, and your dedication
up 50 bags of trash, along with an air conditioner, and hard work in a difficult time is inspiring. The
a small refrigerator, several chairs, a door, and river is getting better, and your work is a major
construction debris, among other large items. part of it. See you on the river.

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PO Box 1764
Westfield, MA 01086-1764

Westfield River Watershed
Association Newsletter In This Issue
Fall 2020 President’s Message .............................. 1
What is Green Infrastructure? ............... 2
Good Reads .......................................... 2
Species Spotlight ................................... 3
Snorkeling with Big Turtle ...................... 3
Partner Spotlight: Tackling Culvert
Problems in the Westfield Watershed ..... 4
WRWA Embraces
Environmental Justice ........................... 6
To Heir is Apparent ................................ 6
American Shad counts up! ..................... 7
A Month of River Cleanups..................... 8

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