Nashua River in Harvard MA - photo by Kristopher Kvenvold

Invasive Water Chestnuts Discovered in Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge

Nashua River Watershed Association (NRWA) staff members have discovered and removed patches of invasive water chestnuts in the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge reach of the Nashua River. The aquatic invasive plant, while present in the Pepperell, MA and Nashua, NH reaches of the Nashua River, has not previously been found near the Oxbow NWR. The annual plant (not the same as the water chestnut in Asian foods), grows at an alarming rate to take over vast areas of slow-moving rivers, lakes, and ponds in just a few years.

Martha Morgan, NRWA’s Water Programs Director, stated that “it’s disheartening to know the plants exist in a part of the river where we haven’t seen them before, but the good news is they can be removed easily by hand. The key is to get them out as soon as they are found.”

Water chestnuts are known to exist in two other areas of the Nashua River. The 80+ acres of water chestnuts in the Pepperell Pond impoundment of the Nashua River need to be controlled by mechanical harvesting or other means. The City of Nashua paid for mechanical harvesting of a 14-acre infestation in Nashua, and that, combined with extensive volunteer efforts, has reduced the population of water chestnuts there to scattered plants removable by just hand-pulling efforts.

The NRWA asks boaters to please remove any water chestnut plants they see, and dispose of them away from the water. Every plant removed prevents the development of potentially hundreds of plants the next year.  Learn more about water chestnuts and what they look like.   

In addition to scouting for invasive plants, NRWA is monitoring bacteria levels at three sites on the Nashua River and a tributary in Harvard on a weekly basis in July and August. “We have been pleased to see bacteria levels stay within state standards for swimming or boating for these sites with the exception of times when it rained hard the day of monitoring, or the previous day,” Morgan said.  “The weekly monitoring gives us a much better picture of how clean the water is during the summer months and how heavy rainfall can wash pollutants into the water.”  View data from July and August monitoring.

“Our weekly monitoring in Harvard was conducted by our interns, Brianna Harte from Harvard and Anthony Sisti from Pepperell.  Both were looking to gain experience in the environmental field,” says Kathryn Nelson, Water Monitoring Coordinator. “After orientation and training, they have been collecting samples and data as well as running the bacteria tests each week. This has given them practical hands on experience while helping the project tremendously.”  

This monitoring for aquatic invasive plants and bacteria levels in Harvard and the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge, together with public outreach, is part of NRWA’s “Protecting Our Waterways: Aquatic Invasive Surveys and Bacterial Testing in Harvard and the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge” project that is funded in part by a grant from the Foundation for MetroWest.

Established in 1995, the Foundation for MetroWest is the only community foundation serving the 33 cities and towns in the MetroWest region, connecting the philanthropic interests of donors with demonstrated need in the areas of Family Support, Arts & Culture, Environment and Youth Development. The Foundation has granted over $9 million to charitable organizations and currently stewards more than $15 million in charitable assets for current needs and future impact. Learn more about the Foundation for MetroWest. 

For more information about water chestnuts or this project, please contact Martha Morgan at (978) 448-0299, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

 

 

Butterfly garden at JR Briggs Elementary School in Ashburnham - photo by Gaynor Bigelbach

Native or Invasive? Learning to Nurture Local Ecosystems

Year-long projects in two schools, J.R. Briggs Elementary School in Ashburnham and Turkey Hill Middle School in Lunenburg, led students to explore the value of local ecosystems. Both projects, funded by Massachusetts Cultural Council STARS Residencies grants, provided for multiple classroom visits and outdoor lessons with NRWA educators in partnership with classroom teachers.

In Ashburnham, third and fifth grade students used the school's butterfly garden as an outdoor classroom where they studied bird identification; bird adaptations, such as the way a bird's beak is shaped perfectly for its diet; and the engineering concepts displayed in animal-designed structures, like bird nests, spider webs, and climbing plants. As part of this project, the students designed and built natural structures for the garden, including toad houses, bird feeders, butterfly "puddle" troughs (where butterflies can extract minerals from the soil), natural fencing, and stone markers for the pathways. At the end of the year, the students' design & field study drawings were on display for the public, along with their enhancements to the garden, all of which were meant to encourage native species to flourish.

In Lunenburg, fifth grade students studied invasive Asian Bittersweet, Multiflora Rose, and Japanese Knotweed in their schoolyard. Their project involved learning to identify these invasives and studying their impact on native ecosystems. The students were given a broad spectrum of art forms to express to their community the need to address the issue of invasive plant damage - song, play, poster, comic strip, or poetry—with a display at the Lunenburg Town Hall.

Thank you to the Massachusetts Cultural Council for making these projects made possible through their STARS Residencies grants.

MCC-logo

Turkey Hill Middle School posters:

Free the ForestHealthy Tree posterSave the Trees poster

 

 

 

Early evening on the Nashua River - photo by Cedwyn Morgan

2015 River Report Card

Our volunteer monitors have been collecting and analyzing samples for the past four months.  The lack of rain and low stream flows were evident in the monitoring results for June (ahead of rains on Father's Day Sunday and storms on June 23rd). With low flow, we saw higher temperatures and lower dissolved oxygen levels. We also saw conductivity up at almost all sites (less flow, more ions concentrated in the water). We did see an increase in E.coli at many sites, but not as much as would have been seen if sampling had been done after the steady rains on Sunday.

Steady light rain during the 2 days prior to monitoring in July did affect water quality with the first "Red Flags" of the season in Monoosnoc Brook in Leominster and the North Nashua in Fitchburg.  Both of these sites are within urban areas of the watershed with lots of pavement and storm drains.    

View 2015 River Report Card. Note that the Report opens on the E.coli worksheet, but you can scroll through to the other data worksheets (temp/DO, etc.) at the bottom of the page.

Do you have questions, or would you like more information? Contact Martha Morgan, NRWA Water Programs Director (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) or Kathryn Nelson, NRWA Water Monitoring Coordinator (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

 

 

Nashua River in Harvard MA - photo by Kristopher Kvenvold

Protecting Harvard's Waterways: NRWA to Expand Water Monitoring in Harvard

Did you know that the 10-mile stretch of the Nashua River which runs through Harvard, including the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge (Oxbow NWR), is state-listed as impaired by E.coli bacteria? Are you aware that at least one invasive water chestnut plant was removed from that same stretch of river last year? The NRWA will be expanding its efforts to address these issues beginning this summer as part of its project, "Protecting Our Waterways: Aquatic Invasive Surveys and Bacterial Testing in Harvard and the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge," with funding from the Foundation for MetroWest.

The NRWA currently monitors water quality and stream conditions at one location on Bowers Brook, with sampling once per month over seven months each season. As part of this project, monitoring will be expanded with two to three additional sites in Harvard and at the Oxbow NWR, and samples will be collected weekly during the months of July and August.  The results will be used to create a "River Report Card" that will be posted on NRWA's website, shared with local papers, town and state officials, and the Oxbow NWR. The information will also be used to post alerts to notify the public when water conditions do not meet swimming or boating standards.

Additionally, the NRWA will undertake an aquatic invasives survey of river reaches in Harvard and the Oxbow NWR, hand pulling any water chestnut plants that are located. Early hand removal of individual plants is vital to prevent the aggressive spread of this plant that is responsible for the current 90-acre infestation of the Nashua River in the Pepperell and Groton area. Local residents may be aware of similar efforts undertaken on Bare Hill Pond. NRWA will work cooperatively with the Friends of the Oxbow, and information garnered from the survey will be shared with the Oxbow NWR and the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex, strengthening capacity to undertake a regional approach to water chestnuts.

As part of this project, the NRWA will be looking for volunteers in Harvard to assist with stream monitoring and invasive surveying and removal. Educational presentations will also be made to the public, the first being "Protecting Harvard's Waterways" on March 26th at 7:00 p.m. in Volunteers Hall at the Harvard Public Library.  The public is invited to attend this free presentation to learn more about this project and opportunities for volunteer participation.

Established in 1995, the Foundation for MetroWest is the only community foundation serving the 33 cities and towns in the MetroWest region, connecting the philanthropic interests of donors with demonstrated need in the areas of Family Support, Arts & Culture, Environment and Youth Development. The Foundation has granted over $9 million to charitable organizations and currently stewards more than $15 million in charitable assets for current needs and future impact. Learn more about the Foundation for MetroWest. 

To learn more about this NRWA project, the presentation on March 26th, or to volunteer, please contact Kathryn Nelson, NRWA's Water Monitoring Coordinator, at (978) 448-0299, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .