Overview and Ecosystem Characteristics:
predominantly lies in the communities of Lunenburg and Shirley,
with a portion extending into Leominster and Lancaster. Located
in the Southern New England Coastal Plains and Hills ecoregion2
of central Massachusetts, this area drains southeasterly
into the mainstem Nashua River just west of new Shirley center.
The Fitchburg-Boston commuter rail line runs through this subbasin.
Route 2A defines much of the northern boundary of this subbasin
as does Route 2 along the southern and Route 13 along the western
The Coastal Plains and Hills
ecoregion is an area with generally similar soils, vegetation, shape
of the land, cool climate and bedrock geology (glacial tills and
outwash deposits). Streamflow, as in most of New England, has significant
Bow, Easter, and Spruce Brooks are feeder streams to Catacoonamaug
Brook which flows southeast from its headwaters to the east of Lake
Shirley until its confluence with the Nashua River. A ridgeline
defines the western boundary of this subbasin.
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Land Ownership and
Patterns: The land-use pattern is 54%
forest (hardwood mixed with softwood) or wetland. Low-density residential
settlement, as well as concentrated settlements and strip development
along major roads and in subdivisions account for 15% residential.
11% of total land area is agricultural (i.e.: string of APR farms
in Lunenburg and Leominster; see below). Commercial operations,
industry and other developed land uses are numerous particularly
along Route 2A in Lunenburg center.
10.3% of this subbasin is total impervious surfaces5
namely, paved areas such as streets, driveways, and parking
lots which indicates that issues of compromised stormwater
and other non-point sources of contaminants6
(for example: pesticides, fertilizers, oils, asphalt, pet wastes,
salt, sediment, human litter and other debris) are an increasing
A shoreline survey of Catacoonamaug Brook from
Route 2A to Flat Hills Road in Lunenburg was conducted by the Catacoonamaug
Stream Team in the June of 1999. Their shoreline survey indicated
that the overall condition of the brook was good. According to the
Stream Team, the brook is a wonderful resource for the town of Lunenburg
and provides excellent riparian, wildlife and aquatic habitat. Threats
to the brook and related waterbodies include: storm drain discharges,
road runoff, agricultural practices, and construction activities.
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Major Water Resource
is no wastewater treatment facility in this subbasin. The one minor
permit is for PJ Keating, Co., which discharges to Bow Brook and
Lake Shirley. The one WMA*
water withdrawal permit held by the Shirley Water District to withdraw
0.3 MGD of groundwater from Catacoonamaug and Patterson wells.
Major waterbodies in this subbasin include Massapoag
Pond, Fort Pond, Lake Whalom and Lake Shirley. Massapoag Pond is
without shoreline development. The Harris Farm APR protects its
entire eastern half and its entire western half is surrounded by
a large wetland. An unnamed brook connects Lake Whalom to Massapoag
Pond to Catacoonamaug Brook. Fort Pond, in Lancaster, is on the
federal 303d List of impaired waterways due to its high nutrient
loading. Lake Whalom is noted for having non-native plants. Lake
Shirley in Lunenburg is noted as being in an eutrophic state (due
to high phosphorus loading) as well as having noxious and non-native
plants and high turbidity (perhaps due to heavy motorboat use).
Other minor waterbodies include: Dead Pond,
Fredonian Pond, Leather Board Pond, Phoenix Pond, Sampson Pond,
and Turkey Hill Pond. Feeder streams to Catacoonamaug Brook include
Bow, Easter, and Spruce Brooks. The headwaters of Easter Brook are
by Jocelyn Hill near North Leominster. Bow Brook originates at Fort
Pond and passes through Tophet Swamp before joining the Catacoonamaug
Brook just to the west of new Shirley center. Another notable wetland
is Long Swamp, which is discussed below. Dams in this subbasin are
located at: Bow Brook, Fort Pond, Lake Shirley outfall, and Phoenix
An area underlying Lake Shirley is classified as a high-yield aquifer
with a medium-yield aquifer abutting this and extending south to
include Fort Pond. Another small area by Catacoonamaug Brook's confluence
with the Mainstem Nashua River is classified as a medium-yield aquifer.
NRWA conducted water quality monitoring from
1996 to 1998 at five stations on Catacoonamaug Brook. Fecal coliform
bacteria, pH or DO samples were collected on multiple occasions
during the years sampled. Samples taken at a site at the outfall
of Sampson Pond and adjacent to a housing development had several
coliform readings too numerous to count (TNTC). Activity on the
pond and run-off from the developed area may contribute to the fecal
coliform levels at this site7.
Overall, the results indicate that, other than problems with fecal
bacteria, the brook is relatively clean, healthy and capable of
supporting a cold-water fishery (given quality habitat, low temperatures
and high oxygenation). Impoundments such as Lake Shirley and Phoenix
Pond can effect water quality, but seem to show no major negative
effects. Polluted runoff and sedimentation is an increasingly serious
issue in rapidly developing communities.
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Priority Habitat Areas: Lake Shirley is
a heavily used recreation destination. The municipality is a large
protector of open space given its Lunenburg Water District lands
along the Catacoonamaug Brook, the Clarks Hill and Harris Conservation
Area, and the Carter Gift parcels. In Shirley, protected lands include
the conservation-restriction held by New England Forestry Foundation
(NEFF) called Valley Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, Harriett Lyons Bird
Sanctuary, as well as town-owned Spruce Swamp and Holden Road Conservation
Areas. Finally, there is a 140-acre Fitchburg State College holding
in Lancaster to the west of Fort Pond in a large wetlands complex.
The state Department of Food and Agriculture
(DFA) has greatly contributed to the protection of Lunenburg's agricultural
"look-and-feel" given eight Agricultural Protection Restrictions
the Dellicarpini, Harris, MacMillan, Pearson, Stillman and Vaillette
Farms in Lunenburg as well as the Fitzgerald and White Farms in
Leominster. Indeed, the Department of Environmental Protection's
Scenic Inventory Project identified as much as one-third of this
subbasin which includes the APR farms corridor mentioned
above as contributing important agricultural character to
the entire region.
There are several state-designated wetlands
Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Project (MA NHESP*) Priority
Habitat Areas which include: one at intersection of Flat Hills and
Burrage Roads in Lunenburg; small pond north of Massapoag Pond at
intersection of Goodrich Road and Lancaster Ave.; along Lancaster
Ave. just north of intersection with Easter Brook; near gravel pits
at intersection of Shirley and Fort Pond Roads; at Round Street
just south of Lake Shirley; and at headwaters of Swamp Brook in
Spruce Swamp in old Shirley center. The one habitat protection focus
area identified in the Nashua River Habitat Assessment Report
(MAS, 2000) is Catacoonamug Brook riparian zone passing through
Shirley center from its confluence with Bow Brook to the Nashua
River. The one habitat protection focus area in this subbasin is
the Long and Spruce Swamps area. Long Swamp is a more than 100 acre
wetland located to the east of Lake Shirley just north of Robb Hill
and is bisected by the Lunenburg-Shirley town line. It consists
of an intricate network of eskers and is a likely turtle habitat
as well as being often associated with uncommon plant communities.
Protection priorities include Long Swamp especially nearest the
ongoing subdivision development on Robb Hill.
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Goals and Recommended Actions
GOAL: Protect wildlife habitat
and migration corridors in the subbasin.
- Land protection efforts to focus on undeveloped
parcels by Lake Shirley, Lake Whalom and Massapoag Pond, and in
Long Swamp area.
- Sponsor local events to raise public understanding
about native wildlife and the impacts of development patterns
on ecosystem and habitat integrity.
- Work with local conservation commissions
to gain their backing of natural resource and habitat inventories.
GOAL: Protect high-priority
open space, vistas, and community character in the subbasin.
- Encourage the use of MA Executive Order 418*
funding for Open Space and Resource Protection Plans for each
Massachusetts community in this subbasin.
- Conduct public education sessions to promote local
passage of Community Preservation Act*.
- Work toward ideal of at least 25-50% protected
open space in each municipality. . Determine which Chapter 61,
61A and 61B properties to pursue Right of First Refusal*
options on if the opportunity arises.
- Apply for Division of Conservation Services Self-Help
- Assist in further DFA APR farm protection projects
- Work with municipal officials to develop subdivision
standards that require proponents to devote at least 50% of land
(not including already undevelopable wet or steep land) for open
space conservation and encourage mixed-use development and cluster
zoning by-right bylaws.
GOAL: Increase recreational
opportunities throughout the subbasin.
- Improve canoeing, fishing, and swimming opportunities
by removing weeds from water bodies.
- Implement Diagnostic/Feasibility (D/F)*
study recommendations for Lake Shirley and encourage timely completion
of its Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Report*.
- Educate the public and municipal departments (especially
Public Works Depts) on efforts relating to invasive species identification
GOAL: Improve water quality
in the subbasin.
- Assist Lunenburg with its Clean Water Act mandated
Phase II Stormwater requirements*.Lunenburg
will be required to obtain permits to reduce impacts to the receiving
streams through the development of Best Management Practices (BMPs)*,
elimination of cross-connections and significant public education.
CSO controls and the development of a long-range control plan
will be required.
- Investigate possible sources of Fecal Coliform
detected in Catacoonamaug Brook near Sampson Pond including potential
upstream septic system leach field failures.
- Survey invasive plant infestation and conduct spot
treatment to control spread on Lake Whalom and Fort Pond as well
as conduct watershed survey to identify nutrient sources in latter.
- Inventory, monitor and improve stormwater drainage
- Identify underground storage tanks (USTs) and work
to have them removed.
- Help develop and disseminate Best Management Practices
for small-scale, hobby type agricultural operations.
GOAL: Reduce potential negative
effects of some development in this subbasin.
- Help local volunteer board members responsible
for development and land-use rulemaking and enforcement get technical
assistance and information regarding techniques to control/guide
land use and development balanced with adequate resource protection
(e.g., Citizens Planner Training Collaborative8
- Increase or establish staff hours for municipal
conservation agents to more effectively monitor construction sites
runoff and assist with the preparation of bylaws such as erosion-sedimentation
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