DECEMBER 30, 2021Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) is pleased to release the Charles River Natural Valley Storage Area (NVSA) Health Assessment, a critical report on the vulnerabilities of wetlands to climate change and development that recommends immediate restoration efforts to preserve and promote climate resilience. 
The Natural Valley Storage Area (NVSA), a network of 8,100 acres of preserved wetlands that provides significant flood mitigation for Boston and other downstream communities in the Charles River watershed, is threatened by the many effects of development such as invasive species growth, loss of biodiversity, reduced riparian habitat, low streamflow, and poor water quality. This crucial research, funded by the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, focused on an especially vulnerable priority area in Franklin, MA, and confirmed action is needed to rehabilitate coldwater fish populations, mitigate stormwater pollution, improve water quality, and restore biodiversity.
“Wetlands act like sponges, protecting downstream communities from flooding, which is becoming increasingly important as climate change brings more intense precipitation to New England. They also provide critical habitat refuges for wildlife and native plants. This pilot health assessment confirms that rampant development in parts of our watershed is threatening the health of these critical wetlands,” said River Science Program Manager Lisa Kumpf.  
The scope of the research included stream health assessments such as a survey of fish population, habitat assessments, and river bug sampling– which found on all counts is degraded. The priority area, or Area N, located at the confluence of Dix and Mine Brooks in Franklin, is one of only nine Coldwater Fish Resource (CFR) streams that support coldwater fish habitat in the Charles River watershed. The study confirmed a suboptimal habitat and poor water quality conditions for river bugs, low fish populations, likely due to a perched culvert impeding passage, and too much sediment and bank erosion due to increases in stormwater runoff from surrounding development.