Taunton River Wild and Scenic River Study Committee

Minutes for Meeting of 5/14/03

Location: SRPEDD

 

Call to Order

Committee Chair Jim Ross called the meeting to order at 7:00.

Members attending:

 

Kitty Doherty, Bridgewater

Tricia Cassady, Francis Pereira, Bill Taylor, Tim Watts, Middleboro

Lou Bosquet, Ray Brierly, Jim Ross, Raynham

Aria Brissette, Jasmine Tanguay, Maryan Nowak, Taunton

Jack Traynor, Halifax

Joan Kimball, Riverways Program

Bill Napolitano, SRPEDD

Jamie Fosburg, National Park Service

            Tim Simmons, NHESP

 

Minutes

The minutes of April’s committee meting were approved with the following corrections:

1. On the first page, in the phrase “(roughly 12,000 to 5,000 years ago)”, the 5,000 should be changed to 500.

2. On the second page, the sentence “You don’t see paleo or early archaic artifacts in other parts of the state.” should be changed to “You don’t see a good concentration of early archaic artifacts in other parts of the state”.

 

Outreach Committee Report

Joan Kimball mentioned that we’re missing some opportunities for outreach and maybe we should consider hiring someone to do this.  We should remember the tributaries are an important part of the outreach.

 

So far there are only 10 people signed up for the June 21st canoe trip.  Aria mentioned that some people might not have wanted to spend the night and didn’t realize that it was possible to only participate in 1 of the 2 days.  The Lower Taunton River event is postponed for that weekend.

 

Bill mentioned that people have been calling who have visited the website and are interested in canoeing the river.  A graduate student even called about research opportunities, so it is proving to be a good outreach tool.

 

Introduction of Guest Speakers

Tim Simmons spoke in place of Lynn Harper from the NHESP.

 

Habitat Protection Presentation

When asked to look around the state and see what’s important from a land mgmt perspective NHESP came up with the following:

1. Water quality, chemistry and hydrology

Water is a major issue here in the southeastern Massachusetts area.  A connection wasn’t being made until recently b/w groundwater and aquifers.  Need to be thought of as connected – not disconnected.  Need to pay attention to it.

 

2. Invasive species

 

3. Fire exclusion/suppression

Many species on the endangered species list require regular burning.  Prescribed fire management is important.  Where they can’t start fires they turn to mowing.  It’s hard to maintain these disturbance dependent communities without disturbing them but it’s hard to get the permits to do it.

 

4. ORVs – There isn’t a management area in the state that doesn’t have ORV (off-road vehicle) problems.

 

The one issue that leapt out at Tim from Brian’s discussion was the % of wetlands that are covered in purple loostrife.  Beekeepers love it b/c it’s the #1 cash crop for bees.  Lots of people like it and don’t understand the threat it poses.  In evaluating our local situation we should pick the battles we can win – in terms of purple loostrife and other invasives – the wetlands where it just started or hasn’t started yet.  Herbicides like rodeo or roundup can be used.  Volunteers are important so don’t underestimate the power of volunteers.  A certified person is needed to apply the chemicals.

 

Consider how big an issue it is and the ecological consequences if we don’t act before we start considering an invasive species control plan.   Then create the plan, implement it, and see how we’re doing (review).  Define the problem, inventory where it’s a problem, determine when you want to act and how. 

 

Jim Ross mentioned underwater invasives.  Senator Howland is proposing powers for the state to be able to close portions of waterbodies to do restoration work in areas with invasive weed problems, as well as levy fines, etc.  In VT, NH, and ME they already levy fines against people who don’t wash their boats and then transport weeds from one waterbody to another.

 

Adverse impact from invasives:

 

Aquatic scenario – in some places there has been such a rapid buildup that water has become anoxic and fish have died.  Displacement of native species, changes in water chemistry (DO, etc), and blockage of passageways in waterbodies for things like turtles are all adverse impacts.

 

In terrestrial areas – purple loostrife isn’t a big displacer of native vegetation in most areas although it does displace wildlife.  Phragmites is another story – it mats and creates conditions that favor itself and not the natives.  There is a native strain of Phragmites. Both Phragmites and purple loostrife change water hydrology.  They lower the water table.

 

For the last 3 years every plant on the “banned in Boston book” was evaluated and every one was determined to belong on the list.  The book on upland invasives was pulled back from distribution b/c some people in the industry were upset that a regulatory agency was distributing a book encouraging people to not buy exotics.  There is an aquatic invasives book available.

 

Discussion proceeded regarding getting a pamphlet together to hand out to people. 

 

Just about every priority Brian Reid had identified is at risk to invasives.  Look for representativeness of these community types and the best examples of these representatives and funnel that down to areas that are currently representative but won’t be in the foreseeable future if action isn’t taken.

 

Kitty asked about land mgmt on state land.  Whatever the problem may be – lack of fire, invasives such as Phragmites, etc. they will help out if they have the funding to do so.

 

We have starved basins here w/more demand than they can handle w/regards to water withdrawal.  Wells are causing a problem.  The greatest threat to river ways and wetlands in SE Massachusetts is water extraction, according to Tim, and the Taunton River is completely vulnerable to excessive withdrawal.  We were encouraged to find out what the in stream flow parameters are right now and how it affects the fisheries, etc.

 

There is an ORV issue at the intersection of the Nemasket and Taunton.  It may be a good idea to identify areas that are potentially at risk or presently at risk to ORV’s.

 

Kitty brought up how we need to start thinking about how the desalinization plant will affect the Taunton River if the water goes to Brockton and then is discharged into the Matfield with the rest of the Brockton gray water.  Tim really isn’t that familiar with this and the issue got tabled.

 

Update on Tributary Project

Kitty Doherty – Town River

Kitty handed out a written update on the Town River Tributary project.  They’ve already had 2 meetings.  She expressed concern about liability on the steering committee and wanted some clarification on who is responsible for liability.  Some folks on the Town River steering committee are hesitant to ask someone else to be involved b/c they fear they may be liable if something happens to the people they recruited.  A discussion pursued on the liability issue.  The consensus was that people are going to have to volunteer on their own volition and if they don’t feel comfortable they shouldn’t participate.  We can have them sign a simple waver but we as a committee aren’t going to take responsibility if someone hurts himself or herself.

 

Jim Ross for Raynham – Forge River

Met a week or 2 ago.  Set July 14th for another meeting for anyone interested in doing the survey.  All the abutters of the river in the section being surveyed will be sent a registered letter asking them if they want to help and whether people can go on their property to survey the river.  Raynham does have some fairly well known people who probably won’t be cooperative so those people will most likely be approached on an individual basis.  There are 80 abutters.  The steering committee felt they wanted to know for sure if abutters received a letter, which is why they were sent registered.  The survey will tentatively be conducted b/w July 15th and August 4th.

 

Other Business

Jamie on bridge project

We have an opportunity to comment on design so he thinks we should do so.  Kitty wants to be able to see the river when you drive over it – over the concrete bridge abutments.  Joan K would like to push for railings on all the bridges so you can see through it.  If there’s room to put an access area for a canoe put in and take out, and parking for a couple of cars, that would be great.  It’s a steep bank but people do use it for put in and take out.  Apparently there is good access above and below the Route 18 Bridge already.

 

The next meeting date will be in August on the 13th and the topic will be recreation.  Jamie would like to get out on the river at some point this summer, not on the 21st, to see how we should classify the river.  Maybe do the entire length but break it up into a couple of different days.

 

Remember July 14th at Town Hall from 6-8 Selectman’s office for Raynham’s tributary survey mtg!

 

Submitted by Aria Brissette