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
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 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
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
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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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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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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
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