WRWA Projects

Water Quality Monitoring

The Westport River Watershed Alliance has been sampling water quality at sites along the Westport River since the 1990’s. Our program monitors the river every week from the start of June to the end of August for Salinity, Turbidity, Temperature, pH, and Fecal Coliform Bacteria Parameters.

Results and summaries are posted here: https://westportwatershed.org/river-info/river-monitoring/

WRWA also partners with the Buzzards Bay Coalition to monitor Bay Health Indicators-the sum of five health indicators: nitrogen (organic and inorganic), dissolved oxygen, algal pigments, and water clarity.

Results and summaries for the Westport River are posted: https://www.savebuzzardsbay.org/bay-health/westport/
Cockeast Pond Study -
Cockeast Pond is a salt pond tributary to the Westport River Estuary. As the only brackish pond in the Westport River watershed it provides a unique and diverse habitat for numerous species of plants and animals. However, past years of nutrient related water quality and macroalgal observations indicate a system that is currently showing clear signs of nutrient related habitat impairment from nitrogen enrichment and its restricted tidal exchange. Within the overall Westport River Estuary, Cockeast Pond is a net contributor of nitrogen to Westport Harbor/West Branch. WRWA partnered with the Coastal Systems Program at UMASS Dartmouth to determine how tidal flushing, Hurricane Sandy, surrounding land use, and other factors may be affecting the Pond’s health and develop an action plan to address any adverse changes.

For more information: https://westportwatershed.org/whats-being-done/cockeast-pond-study/ 
Cockeast Pond Oyster Experiment-

The Coastal Systems Program at UMASS partnered with WRWA on a multi-year research project using Cockeast Pond as a “natural laboratory”. The project: “Quantifying potential for oyster aquaculture and impacts on estuarine nitrogen related water quality: Cockeast Pond and the East Branch of the Westport River."

Oyster aquaculture is a commonly-identified approach that is gaining momentum across the region for nutrient reduction. While the plans to use aquaculture continue to grow, there has been almost no quantification of the effectiveness of the approach. To address this gap, this project will analyze Cockeast Pond – a saltwater pond with a high level of nitrogen enrichment – by assessing baseline conditions from 9 years of monitoring, deploying and supporting an oyster population, and monitoring the resulting habitat and water quality, the project will assess and quantify the ability of aquaculture as a method. 

Project details are posted herehttps://westportwatershed.org/whats-being-done/oyster-experiment-in-cockeast-pond/
Salt Marsh Degradation Study-

Salt marshes are an ecologically important habitat along the New England coastline.  They filter out pollution, provide habitat for wildlife, and protect homes from flooding.  Westport River marshes have declined by nearly 50% during the past 80 years.  A recent study suggests that this rate of decline has increased dramatically over the past 15 years.  The underlying cause of this accelerated loss is not fully understood.  A number of changes along the Westport River, including nitrogen pollution, sea level rise, dredging projects, coastal development, erosion from large storms, and grazing from crabs, are all potential drivers of marsh loss.

To elucidate the mechanisms driving the Westport River marsh loss WRWA worked with researchers from Brown University, Providence College and the University of Connecticut to study the biology and ecology of salt marsh plants to see if this could explain why salt marshes are degrading. A preliminary report has indicated that excess nitrogen is not the cause of salt marsh degradation.

More WRWA Salt marsh project information :
Westport Targeted Integrated Water Resource Management Plan-

The Westport River is polluted with nitrogen and drinking water wells in many areas of the town are unsafe due to high nitrogen levels as well as bacterial contamination, the BOH said. Each new home built in town adds even more nitrogen to the town’s overburdened resources.

In addition to the public health risk, excess nitrogen in the Westport River contributes to the growth of undesirable algae, reducing oxygen levels and water clarity and harming habitats like eelgrass and saltmarshes, and degrading the waters for shell fishing, recreation, and other public purposes.

In 2017, the US EPA established limits on how much nitrogen could be in the Westport Rivers and found that 71% of the nitrogen from existing on-site systems must be removed. The Town finalized the Targeted Integrated Water Resources Management Plan in an effort to address the nitrogen challenge.

WRWA continues to work with the Town committees and the consultants to insure scientifically valid approaches. WRWA will continue to follow the progress of this plan and take a position on individual elements as appropriate.

Report can be found on the Town's website

Hix Bridge Debris Removal-
Foundation and rubble from the 1938 Hix Bridge (destroyed by the hurricane of 1938 - and pushed aside and left in the river) is impeding the current velocities in the river at the bridge - causing a depositional environment that is burying the oyster that live there in fine sediments. The Town has worked with the Army Corp of Engineers to develop a feasibility study to determine logistics and costs for removal.

WRWA supports the removal of the rubble at Hix Bridge and will keep in contact with the Army Corp. of Engineers (ACE). Personnel and budget changes at the ACE have led to delays on the finalization of their feasibility study.