WRWA River News for June, 2017
River News - June, 2017
Chris Smither and Dar Williams 
  2017 Summer Concert * July 15

Get Your Tickets Now from WRWA and Narrows Center for the Arts

Get your tickets now for our annual summer concert at the Westport Rivers Vineyard. Dar Williams and Chris Smither will be performing on Saturday, July 15, 2017 at 6 p.m. These well-known and profoundly talented singer-songwriters will be on-stage on the beautiful Westport Rivers landscape for an outdoor evening concert to benefit the Watershed Alliance.

Like last summer's very successful Tom Rush show, this year's concert is co-presented with The Narrows Center for the Arts and sponsored in part by Westport Rivers and Buzzards Bay Brewing.

Tickets are $40 for WRWA members, $50 for non-members, and will be $60 the day of the show. Don't wait - last year's show was a sell out, with over 600 guests enjoying the great music and pastoral setting on a beautiful summer evening.

Get tickets on the Narrows website at
www.narrowscenter.org , and at the WRWA office & website www.westportwatershed.org ,
or by phone 508-636-3016.


This show is presented in cooperation with the Narrows Center for the Arts.  Sponsored by Westport Rivers Vineyard.


Other local sponsors include The Bayside Restaurant, Country Woolens, Lees Oil Service, Pine Hill Equipment and Ralco Electric.


Update On Oyster Experiment in Cockeast Pond
Roberta Carvalho, Science Director

The Westport River Watershed Alliance (WRWA) is working with the Coastal Systems Program (CSP) UMass Dartmouth (SMAST) on a project funded by a grant from the US EPA Southeast New England Program (SNEP) for Coastal Watershed Restoration. The UMass Dartmouth initiative, led by Dr. Brian Howes and Dr. Roland Samimy at SMAST's Coastal Systems Program, is utilizing Cockeast Pond as a natural laboratory to measure how oysters improve water clarity and potentially reduce elevated nitrogen levels which indirectly destroy fish and other marine wildlife habitats.

Last September over ~30,000 oysters were placed at four different locations in Cockeast pond in 15 floating bags and 4 bottom cages, constructed of high quality, industrial grade vinyl coated wire. After a few months, SMAST scientists sunk the oysters in deeper water to overwinter in the pond, they seem to be surviving well.  Survival/mortality was quantified at each location and a sub sample of oysters from each bottom cage was measured, weighed and brought back to SMAST for analysis of nitrogen content in the meat and shells.  This initial small scale deployment was a simple survivability test to determine if Cockeast Pond waters would be supportive of a large scale oyster deployment in the summer of 2017. By the end of June 2017, activities will gear up again as the full scale experiment will begin and involve adding around 500,000 oysters over approximately 60 square meters (less than 1% of the total pond area).

The project is using oysters grown by Westport's own  Riptide Oysters. The SMAST team is planning to deploy the oysters in one main location within Cockeast Pond; generally the southwest quadrant of the pond south of the large rock the middle of the pond.  A secondary location was selected as necessary on the north-east side of pond. As a precursor to this work permits and permissions were secured from Army Corps of Engineers, the MA Division of Marine Fisheries, and the Town of Westport Marine Services Director.

WRWA's role in this project is multi-faceted and will focus on both science and outreach. We will also be involved in the set-up of the various oyster gear as well helping with the deployment and maintenance of the oysters. Additionally, WRWA is helping with community outreach by distributing information to residents regarding the project and promoting its results on our website and social media, so stay tuned for updates.

Why Do the Study?

We know oysters are filter feeders; they remove particles from the water that contain nitrogen, primarily in algae (phytoplankton), and use it to build their tissues and shells or move it to bottom sediments in their biodeposits. Once the nitrogen is in the sediments, microbes may break it down and release nitrogen gas into the atmosphere, a process called denitrification, removing nitrogen from the estuary. Also, all the nitrogen that is in any oysters that are harvested is removed from the system as well. The oysters in the experiment will not be harvested, but transferred to areas to depurate (clean-out) as they reach specific size limits with the hope that after the four year experiment is completed, an historic oyster bed in the East Branch of the Westport River will have been repopulated.

Not as well understood, however, is the amount of nitrogen that is either sequestered via deep burial in bottom sediments or returned to the atmosphere via denitrification. Determining rates of sequestration and denitrification is much more difficult than estimating nitrogen removal by harvest.

Data collected so far on denitrification associated with either intensive oyster aquaculture or restored oyster reefs show much greater variability than data on nitrogen content of shells and tissues. Data from past studies suggest that restored oyster reefs significantly enhance denitrification rates, however the degree of enhancement is highly variable. Denitrification rates vary with season, tidal regime, environmental conditions, oyster biomass density, and other unidentified factors, possibly including differences in microbial communities. That is one reason why this study was granted funding. These additional studies are needed to better understand the sources of this variation before assigning a value to the nitrogen removal capacity of oyster reefs attributable to denitrification. Scientists know little about nitrogen sequestration via deep burial; to date, no measurements of nitrogen burial rates associated with oyster reefs or oyster aquaculture have been published.

This research on oysters may help decision makers and citizens across the southeastern Massachusetts region understand the role of oyster reefs as natural capital, thus opening the door to greater investments in nature-based restoration techniques. This is more than just revitalizing an industry, it is the inherent ecological values of the oysters, including improving water quality and protecting shorelines we promote while also maintaining the unique cultural dimension of the region.  Understanding the efficacy of restored oyster populations on improving nutrient related water quality is but one of many strategies that may be considered by the Town of Westport as it develops a holistic nutrient management plan for the watershed to the Westport River estuary.  It does not obviate or diminish the importance of nutrient load reductions to improve water quality in Cockeast Pond or the greater Westport River estuarine system. 

If you would like to learn more contact Roberta Carvalho, WRWA Science Director at  water@wrwa.com.

 Welcome New Summer Interns

Each summer, WRWA hires local students to assist with our education programs.  A generous grant from BayCoast Bank has allowed WRWA to bring two interns on board again this summer - highly qualified students who grew up in the local area: Alexie Rudman and Rachel Pacitto.
Alexie is beginning a Master's of Environmental Management at Duke University in the Fall, where she will focus on marine policy, and adaptation to climate change in coastal areas. Her love for the outdoors developed at an early age, having spent tireless hours playing in the rocks and tide pools at South Shore Beach and Sakonnet Point as a child, and exploring the fascinating creatures in her grandmother's garden in Little Compton. She continues to explore her passion for the outdoors through surfing, which inspired curiosity and concern for the wellbeing of coastal ecosystems and those who depend on them. She is grateful for this opportunity to work with children as a WRWA intern in the hopes that they will be inspired to learn more about and care their environment, and pass it on to younger generations.
Rachel has always felt deeply connected and passionate about the natural world. As a child, she spent her days, rain or shine, outdoors, exploring the surrounding forests and the Charles River in Holliston, MA, where she was raised. As a teenager, Rachel often travelled to her favorite coastal destination, Horseneck Beach. Motivated by her insatiable compassion and curiosity for marine life, Rachel moved to Westport in 2016 to complete her Bachelor's degree in Marine Biology and Spanish with a minor in Sustainability at UMass Dartmouth. Rachel's studies focus on conservation, education outreach, and environmental
policy. She hopes that her work with WRWA will help her to encourage and inspire children to learn about and care for their environment. 
Welcome, Alexie and Rachel!
Is the River Clean Enough for Swimming?
For Answers Check Our Website Weekly
Roberta Carvalho, Science Director

WRWA has been sampling the River to test for fecal coliform bacteria since 1991; monitoring for the presence of bacteria pollution. Bacteria do not generally damage the ecosystem, but can make people sick when they eat tainted seafood, or  swim in contaminated water. They are also a marker to identify the possible presence of other pathogens that come from the same fecal sources. Bacteria in the River comes from human wastewater and domestic and wild animal waste
You can visit our website weekly to see water testing results for the Westport River. Go to this link:   http://westportwatershed.org/river-info/water-resources/ 
Water quality testing results for local public beaches can be found on the state's website:

The laboratory tests are done by the City of New Bedford Health Department Lab. WRWA's collection and analysis of samples has been utilized by the town and state agencies to document bacterial contamination in the river. WRWA's data is not used to open and close shellfish areas, this sampling is done by the  State Division of Marine Fisheries .
Many of the most common pollutants come from one of two places: humans and animals. Human fecal matter in water bodies constitutes the greatest public health threat because humans are reservoirs for many bacteria, parasites, and viruses that are dangerous to other humans and can cause a variety of illnesses. Bacteria/pathogen pollution is transported to the river primarily by rainfall and resultant runoff. The amount, duration, intensity, and time span between rain events are factors that influence fecal coliform levels in the river. 

Annual River Day Festival
June 10th at Head of Westport

This year's River Day had perfect weather and a good crowd, who enjoyed all the activities, the music and the great food! Thanks to everyone who sponsored, attended
and volunteered for our traditional River Day festival at the Head of Westport.

2 Commonwealth Corps Positions Open

The Westport River Watershed Alliance is seeking 2 full time Commonwealth Corps volunteers to serve as Environmental Educators.  The Commonwealth Corps volunteers will deliver our Watershed Education Programs to children in grades PreK-12, and launch additional weekend student and family education programs. Commonwealth Corps volunteers with the WRWA will serve 10.5 months in a full-time capacity. Applicants should be Massachusetts residents and have a desire to put their talents and ideas to use in the service of their communities and the Commonwealth.

The mission of the Commonwealth Corps is to engage Massachusetts residents of all ages and backgrounds in service to strengthen communities, address unmet community needs, and increase volunteerism. Members will serve in a stipe nded full-t ime capacity from 8/15/17 - 6/24/18. Benefits include a focus on member training and development, as well as a bi-weekly stipend, a completion award, an inspiring network of fellow members, and other supports.
Those interested in applying for the position should email a cover letter, resume and three references to Shelli Costa, wep@wrwa.com .  For a full position description please visit our website:  www.westportwatershed.org .
Outgoing Commonwealth Corps Members Lauren Arruda and Ryan Palmer at a going-away party with WRWA staff and Board Members.

Just a few spots still open for WRWA's Summer Coastal Ecology Program  
Watershed Explorers Ages 12-16

Your child will explore the Westport River watershed and beyond in this program specially designed for the young outdoor enthusiasts. Through hikes on land and kayaking on the water, we will see many sections of our local rivers. We will spend 3 days kayaking with Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures.
Cost:  $360 members $400 non-members
Time:  Monday through Friday  9am-2pm 
Date:         8/7-8/11

Register online at:
www.westportwatershed.org/education/summer-programs/  or call 508-636-3016

Corporate Sponsors

Westport River Watershed Alliance | 508-636-3016 | http://westportwatershed.org

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