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

Land Area: 57 sq miles or 35,463 acres
Primary Municipalities: Holden, Princeton, Rutland
Permanently Protected Land Area: 11,396 acres or 48%
River length: 10.6 miles

% Imperviousness: 8.2 %
# of NPDES* discharge permits: 3 minor
Limited Protection Land Area (Chap. 61, etc.): 6,219 acres
Dams: 1; MDC in West Boylston
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: Most of this subbasin1 lies in the Massachusetts communities of Holden, Princeton and Rutland with parts extending into Paxton and West Boylston. Located in the "fuzzy" zone encompassing parts of both the Upper Worcester Plateau and the Southern New England Coastal Plains and Hills ecoregions2 of central Massachusetts, this area drains into the Wachusett Reservoir: the largest body of open water in the greater Nashua River watershed.

Topography is generally hilly, encompassing numerous flatter wetlands, broad valleys, and floodplains. A low percentage (8.2%) of total impervious surfaces3 — namely, paved areas such as streets, driveways, and parking lots — for this whole subbasin indicates that concerns of compromised stormwater and other non-point sources4 of contaminants (for example: pesticides, fertilizers, oils, asphalt, pet wastes, salt, sediment, litter and other debris) is not a pressing concern. As detailed below in the "water resources" section, there is a large amount of permanently protected undeveloped open space in this subbasin.

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Land Ownership and Land Use5 Patterns: The land-use pattern is predominantly forest (hardwood mixed with softwood) or wetland plus low-density residential settlement as well as concentrated settlements and strip development located near town centers and along major roads. Agriculture (notably "hobby farms" and backyard horse paddocks), gravel extraction, commercial operations, industry and other developed land uses are less significant.

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Major Water Resource Issues: Most of the already heavily developed areas in the subbasin are served by public water systems. The majority of Rutland and Holden town residents have on-site septic systems but both town centers are sewered6. All the sewered flow is carried outside of the Nashua River watershed to the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement District facility. There are no wastewater treatment plants in this subbasin. The one National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)7 permit is for Holden Trap Rock Company on Austin Brook. Streamflow, as in most of New England, has significant seasonal changes8.

Based on recent findings in an Hydrologic Analysis (inflow/outflow) by Camp, Dresser, Mckee, under contract with EOEA for the Massachusetts Watershed Initiative Nashua Team, the upper reaches of the Quinapoxet sub-basin are currently under a medium level of stress. With continued withdrawals over the next 20 years, the entire Quinapoxet sub-basin will be experiencing flow stress. The upper reaches, from the Quinapoxet Reservoir up, will remain under "medium stress". The lower reaches (remaining portion discharging directly to Wachusett reservoir) will also be under medium stress.

Medium stress means that the net 7Q10 outflow from the sub-basin equals or exceeds the estimated natural 7Q10. 7Q10 is the lowest consecutive 7 day streamflow that is likely to occur in a ten year period in a particular river segment. High stress means that the net average August outflow from the sub-basin equals or exceeds the estimated natural August average flow.

The areas around Muschopaug Pond--which supplies water to the Towns of Rutland and Holden — and Asnebumskit Pond--which supplies water to the Town of Paxton — are locally zoned for watershed protection. There are two major surface water supply systems for the City of Worcester (which include the Quinapoxet Reservoir, Pine Hill Reservoir, and Kendall Reservoirs 1 and 2). Indeed, 36% of the Quinapoxet subbasin's water is diverted into the City of Worcester's reservoirs and from there to Blackstone River basin.

A total of 35% of this subbasin is protected open space (Worcester reservoirs' surface water included). The City of Worcester owns the land that immediately surrounds each of its reservoirs and approximately 25% of its entire water supply watershed: it is a highly-protected forest with no public access. Furthermore, the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) is a large land owner, the Town of Holden owns over 600 acres as the Trout Brook Conservation Area, and Massachusetts Audubon Society owns several hundred acres in the Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in addition to other properties in the subbasin.

This subbasin features an extensive network of streams and rivers feeding the Wachusett reservoir including: Asnebumskit, Ball, Bumbo, Cobb, Governor, Maushcopaug, Trout, and the Quinapoxet. According to the 1998 Nashua River Watershed Report Card, the upper 4.5 miles of the Quinapoxet River is rated as non-supportive of biology and hydrology9. The MDC believes that low flow is the cause of impaired habitat. The low flow is related to limited discharge from Worcester's Quinapoxet Reservoir. Given the Quinapoxet is a noted trout stream, there is a concern for the trout fishery that hydromodification and water withdrawals lead to reduced streamflows; thus, less habitat and often lower quality habitat, since less flow is available to dilute pollutants and stream temperatures are likely to be higher.

The lower Quinapoxet is rated as on alert for biology, chemistry and hydrology. Chaffin's Brook is considered a "moderately septic polluted stream" and its lower reach has noxious aquatic plants in an impoundment. Trout Brook in Holden is considered to be high quality habitat and have limited disturbance. There are a number of medium yield aquifers surrounding Holden center and to protect this resource the town has passed an aquifer protection bylaw.

As for the water quality of the subbasins' lakes and ponds: Streeter Pond in Paxton, and Eagle Lake and Dawson, Stump and Unionville Ponds in Holden are all considered to be eutrophic as well as to have noxious and non-native plants. Maple Spring Pond in Holden is considered to be eutrophic, and Chaffin Pond in Holden is considered to be hypereutrophic. There are no 303d-listed impaired water bodies in this subbasin.

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Recreation and Priority Habitat Areas: Wachusett Mountain, Quinapoxet Reservoir, and Pine Hill Reservoir areas have been identified as important core habitat areas. Mushcopaug Brook, especially at Holbrook Swamp is a protection priority, as are the extensive wetlands with adjacent uplands on either side of Glenwood Road south of Davis Hill. This focus area is a connector between the expansive open space of Mt. Wachusett to the north, the Pine Hill Reservoir focus area to the south, and the Poutwater Pond focus area to the east.

The Pine Hill Reservoir focus area forms the southern extent of a string of open areas stretching north. It is exceptional for the extent of undeveloped hillside directly adjacent to large bodies of water. The area around the reservoirs is known to provide excellent snake habitat. Protection priorities include Bond Hill and the wetland to the west and unprotected interior parcels such as the area around Worcester Brook north of Pine Hill Reservoir, and Streeter Pond to the south.

The Poutwater Pond focus area is an important corridor between the Savage Hill and Wekepeke Brook focus areas and is the nearest large area of limited development to the west of Wachusett Reservoir. Poutwater Pond and the adjacent, large spruce-tamarack bog wetland/ upland combination are likely important reptile and amphibian breeding habitat. Priorities are Flagg and Hog Hills.10

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Resource Protection Goals and Recommended Actions

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

  • Assist MDC, MassWildlife, other state agencies, municipalities, and local land trusts in consensual transactions to acquire additional open space in priority areas.
  • 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 for natural resource and habitat inventories.
  • Continue MDC-Division of Watershed Management's Private Land Forestry program which encourages private forest landowners to adopt forestry practices namely, forest management planning required by the Chapter 61 program that protect water quality.
  • Encourage citizen certification of vernal pools.

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 the Quinapoxet River 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.
  • 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 the Wachusett Greenways group in its volunteer efforts to link communities via open spaces and multi-use intermunicipal trails and, in particular, the Mass Central Rail Trail.
  • Improve recreational opportunities by removing weeds from water bodies.
  • 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 basin.

  • Assist Holden, Paxton and West Boylston with its EPA's 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.
  • Conduct more detailed inflow/outflow studies given stressed status of some waterways.
  • Determine status of Holden Trap Rock Stormwater Prevention Plan.
  • Monitor for waste solvent (vinyl chloride) and high metals leaching from Holden landfill into groundwater.
  • Identify the major sources of fecal coliform and nitrate-nitrogen inputs to the river and work with communities to address the problem.
  • Identify the degree of threat from potential faulty/ illicitly discharging septic systems, which may result in bacterial and nutrient contamination of nearby streams and groundwater.
  • Identify underground storage tanks and work with communities to have them removed.
  • Monitor effects of increasing urbanization to prevent diminished groundwater recharge and to declining stream flow as well as stream channel widening and downcutting.
  • Help develop and disseminate Best Management Practices for small-scale agricultural operations.

GOAL: Reduce negative effects of development in this subbasin.

  • Monitor uncontrolled runoff from construction sites to prevent sedimentation of streams.
  • Track increased imperviousness and both direct and indirect riparian zone alterations that may increase stream temperature and cause sedimentation.
  • Help local volunteer board members responsible for development and land-use rulemaking and enforcement get technical assistance and information regarding fundamental and innovative techniques to control and guide land use and development balanced with adequate resource protection (e.g., Citizens Planner Training Collaborative11 workshop offerings).
  • Increase or establish staff hours of municipal conservation agents to more effectively monitor runoff from construction sites and assist with the preparation of relevant bylaws.
  • Write and implement stormwater, erosion and sedimentation bylaws/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 Ecoregions are areas with generally similar climate, bedrock geology, soils, vegetation, and shape of the land. The Worcester Plateau (or Monadnock Upland) has granite and schist bedrock and is cooler than the more moderate Southern New England Coastal Plains and Hills ecoregion, which has glacial till and outwash deposits for bedrock. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts considers this physiographic region the "Central Upland" region.

3 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.

4 Non-point source pollution, also known as polluted runoff, is the single largest source of water pollution nationwide. Polluted runoff is the result of rain or melting snow carrying pollutants or sediments from the land to the water. Polluted runoff results in water pollution from land-disturbing activities like agriculture, forestry, mining and urban development.

5 "Land Use" description at

6 Historically, the MDC Division of Watershed Management "has considered on-site wastewater disposal systems to be the most significant source of pathogens and other pollutants of concern within the [greater] Wachusett watershed." (Wachusett Reservoir Watershed Protection Plan Update 1998, pp. 6-23)

7 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) is the national system for issuing, modifying, revoking, monitoring and enforcing permits regulating point sources of pollution. The system also imposes and enforces pretreatment requirements.

8 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. 2-30)

9 In the terminology of the 1998 Nashua River Watershed Report Card (DEP), "alert" means there is some indication that water quality impairment may exist based on any given variable, but there is not enough data to determine such. The term "threatened" is used when the use is fully supported but may not support the use within two years because of adverse pollution trends or anticipated sources of pollution. "Partial support" means a minor impairment, violation or objectionable condition with impairment being neither frequent nor prolonged. (Based on the Center for Watershed Protection's "Rapid Watershed Assessment Handbook" protocol)

10 Focus Areas for Wildlife Habitat Protection in the Nashua River Watershed, (MAS, 2000).

11 Citizen Planner Training Collaborative (CPTC)
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