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Subbasins - Falulah/Baker Brook
Geographic & Ecosystem Characteristics | Land Ownership & Land Use Patterns
Major Water Resource Issues | Recreation & Priority Habitat Areas
Resource Protection Goals & Recommended Actions

Land Area: 16 square miles
Primary Municipalities: Fitchburg
Permanently Protected Land Area: 1313 acres or 14%
Limited Protection Land Area (Chap. 61, etc.): 201 acres
River length: 7.8 miles
Feeder Stream: Pearl Hill and "Saima" Brooks

% Imperviousness: approximately 11%
# of MA NHESP* Priority Habitat Sites: 1
# of NPDES* permits: 0
Most Threatened Waterbodies: Putnam and Greenes Ponds
Reservoirs: Falulah, Fitchburg, Lovell, and Scott
Location within the Nashua River Watershed Water Resources Habitat Analysis
Open Space Water Resources Natural Heritage
Limited Protection Water Resources Recreation

Geographic Overview and Ecosystem Characteristics: This subbasin1 predominantly lies in the community of Fitchburg, with a portion in Ashby and Lunenburg, and a very small part extending into Ashburnham. Located in the "fuzzy" zone straddling the Worcester Plateau and Southern New England Coastal Plains ecoregions2 of central Massachusetts, this area drains southeasterly into the North Nashua River just upstream of the Fitchburg Municipal Airport and the East Fitchburg Wastewater Treatment Facility. Falulah Brook begins at Fitchburg Reservoir in Ashby with various unnamed feeder streams and is impounded behind Lovell Reservoir and Falulah Reservoir, which is itself feed by Scott Reservoir via Scott Brook. It flows southeasterly through the City of Fitchburg paralleling the commercial strip of John Fitch Highway where it is affected by urban influences (and where it most affects the human population by periodically flooding). Route 31 travels through the center of this subbasin and Routes 2A and 13 pass through a portion as well.

Streamflow, as in most of New England, has significant seasonal changes3. Pearl Hill and "Saima" Brooks are feeder streams to Falulah-Baker Brook. This subbasin begins at higher elevations in Ashby and Ashburnham (namely Jewell and Blood Hills and Russell Hill respectively) then descends toward the North Nashua River valley and floodplains. The two highest points in this subbasin in Fitchburg are Brown Hill in the west and Pearl Hill in the east. There is a considerable swath of protected watershed supply lands in the headwaters. The eastern and western boundaries of this subbasin are north-south running ridgelines and a third such similar ridgeline runs from Blood Hill by Fitchburg Reservoir to Saima Park.

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Land Ownership and Land Use4 Patterns: The land-use pattern is predominantly 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 residential. There is a fair amount of agriculture and/or open land - approximately 5% of total land area -- notably the Hertel and Marshall Agricultural Protection Restricted (APR) farms in Fitchburg. However, part of the Marshall Farm and Orchard is in the process of being converted to a residential subdivision and the 330-acre ArnHow Farm (in the northeastern section of this subbasin) in anticipation of conversion to other uses has been removed from the Chapter 61A program, which offered limited protection of the land. Commercial operations, industry and other developed land uses are numerous and include densely-populated, highly urbanized areas in with large paved areas (i.e. Wal-Mart shopping center).

With 11.3% of total impervious surfaces5 -- namely, paved areas such as streets, driveways, and parking lots -- for this subbasin indicates that concerns of compromised stormwater and other non-point sources of contaminants (for example: pesticides, fertilizers, oils, asphalt, pet wastes, salt, sediment, litter and other debris) are not an immediate pressing concern.

Primary pollutants of concern in stormwater are suspended solids, nutrients, metals, oil and grease (PAH), temperature and bacteria. The sources of bacteria in urban settings are typically human and other animal litter left on driveways, lawns, commercial and residential streets, parking lots and rooftops.

Indeed, a shoreline survey of the "Saima" Brook conducted by the Fitchburg Stream Team in the Summer of 2001 noted sections that were impacted by recent roadway construction and other development activities. For the past two years the Fitchburg Stream Team also participated in cleanups of Falulah Brook (from its intersection with Route 2A to behind the John Fitch Highway shopping center). Many tons of trash was removed from the brook on both occasions: this stretch of the brook clearly receives the most direct abuse. Other groups have planned cleanups for the Coolidge Park section of Falulah Brook.

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Major Water Resource Issues: There are neither any wastewater treatment facilities, NPDES* permits, nor WMA* water withdrawal permits in this subbasin. Much of the area underlying Bakers Brook is classified as a medium- and high-yield aquifer. Major waterbodies in this subbasin include: Falulah, Fitchburg, Lovell, and Scott Reservoirs; and Greenes, Paige and Putnam's Ponds. The latter two contain noxious and non-native plants. Feeder streams to Falulah Brook include various unnamed ones, a so-called "Saima" Brook which flows into Saima Pond and then Greenes Pond, and Pearl Hill Brook which runs through Paige Pond. Indeed, the official beginning of Bakers Brook is at the confluence of Falulah and Pearl Hill Brooks (behind a shopping center on John Fitch Highway).

During wet weather, the East Fitchburg WWTP is permitted to discharge storm water and wastewater from several combined sewer overflows (CSOs) to Baker Brook and several unnamed streams. EPA issued an Administrative Order in July 1996 requiring the city to develop a long-term CSO control plan. The city submitted a Draft Plan and Sewer Separation Study in January 1999 and additional financial information in March 2000. This plan is currently under review but has not been approved.

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Recreation and Priority Habitat Areas: The recent municipal purchase of 170 acres of Blood Hill in Ashby in the year 2001 for conservation purposes must be considered a major open space acquisition. Coolidge Park is a popular local recreation destination, which is prominent in being very close to densely populated Fitchburg neighborhoods. Saima Park -- a private recreation area started by the Finnish community -- receives some use while nearby municipally-owned Greenes Pond Conservation Area is underutilized due to lack of trails. The Massachusetts Audubon Society owns a several hundred acre property in this subbasin, Flat Rocks Sanctuary, where there is at least one certified vernal pool. Fitchburg Reservoir is a MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) Priority Habitat site and an important bird habitat, where common loons regularly nest.

The one core area identified in the Nashua River Habitat Assessment Report 2000, which encompasses a large part of the northwestern end of this subbasin, is called the Squannacook Headwaters. The one habitat protection focus area in this subbasin is Pearl Hill Brook, which is an important buffer between Willard Brook State Forest and the urban development of Fitchburg. Protection priorities include the entire unprotected section south of Fitchburg Reservoir, which includes narrow wetlands with adjacent uplands, and the undeveloped portions of Maplewood Golf Course.

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Resource Protection Goals and Recommended Actions

GOAL: Protect wildlife habitat and migration corridors in the subbasin.

___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.

___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.

___Support completion of City of Fitchburg's Open Space and Recreation Plan. Help implement its Five-Year Action Items. Apply for Division of Conservation Services Self-Help* funds for appropriate properties.

___Educate the public and municipal departments (especially Public Works Depts) on efforts relating to invasive species identification and removal.

GOAL: Improve water quality in the subbasin.

___ Assist Fitchburg and Leominster with its Clean Water Act-mandated MS-4 Phase II Stormwater requirements.* These municipalities 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.

___Help develop and disseminate Best Management Practices for small-scale, hobby type agricultural operations.

___ Determine locations of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in Fitchburg. Continue to track progress of CSO abatement activities. Conduct additional dry and wet weather fecal coliform bacteria monitoring in most impacted segments of Baker Brook to identify potential sources of pathogens and other contaminants

___Survey invasive plant infestation and conduct spot treatment to control spread on Greenes and Putnam Ponds.

___Review the turf maintenance practices of the area golf courses up gradient of Pearl Hill Brook to determine potential non-point source pollution from fertilizer use.

___Inventory, monitor and improve stormwater drainage structures.

___Identify underground storage tanks (USTs) and work to have them removed.

GOAL: Reduce negative effects of 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 Collaborative6 workshop offerings).

___Increase or establish staff hours of municipal conservation agents to more effectively monitor construction sites runoff and assist with the preparation of bylaws such as erosion-sedimentation controls.

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* See glossary.

1 For this Plan, subbasins were delineated and analyzed using USGS defined boundaries which sometimes are truncated at the gaging station and may not appear to be consistent with topographically determined drainage areas.

2 The Worcester Plateau (or Monadnock Upland) and the Southern New England Coastal Plains and Hills ecoregions are areas with generally similar climate, bedrock geology, soils, vegetation, and shape of the land. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts considers this physiographic region the "Central Upland" region.

3 Corresponding to seasonal stream flow changes are notable spikes in bacteria levels during summer and fall. Seasonal cycles of high bacteria concentrations may be attributed to decreased dilution during summer months, when tributary flows are lowest. (Wachusett Reservoir Watershed Protection Plan Update 1998, pp. 2-29)

4 "Land Use" description at

5 According to the Center for Watershed Protection's Rapid Watershed Assessment Handbook protocol, an area with less than 10% (8 - 12%) impervious surfaces is considered "partially threatened"; less than 8% is considered "sensitive" or what one would say is a relatively pristine environment;" 12 - 20% is considered "threatened"; and more than 20% is considered "non-supporting" or urbanized. The figures cited in the narrative are based on NRW Estimated Impervious Cover by Sub-basin based on '85/'92 Land Use: MDC '98 Methods Estimate by Bruce Bayne and Jo Anne Carr of the EOEA Nashua River Watershed Team.

6 Citizen Planner Training Collaborative (CPTC)

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