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Environmental Secretary: No Road in the River
Good news: Mass. Energy & Environment Secretary Katie Theoharides has made it clear that intrusions into the Charles River as part of the I-90 Project are a non-starter. In a recent letter to MassDOT she said “any alternative that contains impacts on the Charles River, even temporary, is not only difficult to permit, but should be discounted in favor of alternatives with no temporary or permanent impact... my agencies would consider any intrusion into the river excessive, especially if there are alternatives without any intrusion.”

Where do things stand now? MassDOT is considering three alternatives: I-90 and Soldiers Field Road (SFR) at-grade, I-90 on a viaduct structure, and SFR on a viaduct structure. All models assume a new West Station commuter rail. We believe there are opportunities to improve the project under all scenarios, including by reducing the number of traffic lanes : if the current 8 lanes of Mass Pike were reduced to 6, and the current 4 lanes of SFR were reduced to 2, it would free up space next to the river for parkland, walking and biking. In addition, reducing single-occupancy vehicle capacity advances the state’s and MassDOT’s own climate goals, which require sharp decreases in greenhouse gas emissions from cars. We also will push for the final design to restore the ecological functions of the riverbank, which has been neglected and degraded for decades.
Toxic Cyanobacteria (Blue-Green Algae) Bloom
A public health advisory has been issued for the Charles River, between the Museum of Science and Mass Ave Bridge. On June 24, our Aquatic Scientist, Lisa Kumpf, and intern, Andrew Taylor, noticed what looked like cyanobacteria in the Charles River between the Mass Ave Bridge and the Museum of Science. We notified the Mass. Department of Public Health (DPH), who confirmed that it was indeed blue-green algae or cyanobacteria. DPH advises that boaters should avoid contact with water, and dogs should be kept out of the water. Cyanobacteria blooms are now an annual occurrence, but this is a full month earlier than last year’s bloom, due in large part to the long stretch of hot sunny days and ambient nutrient pollution in the river. It is a sober reminder that our work restoring the Charles is far from over.
News at a Glance
  • Save the date! Our 54th Annual Meeting is coming to you on Thursday, July 16 at 12:00 pm! Learn more about this free virtual event.

  • With EEA Secretary Theoharides’ announcement of a Level 2 Significant Drought for most of Massachusetts, it is critically important that cities and towns invest in stormwater management practices that build resilience to both flooding and drought, as precipitation becomes more consolidated to certain parts of the year and leaves New England with long, hot, dry summers. Learn more.

  • “Murky picture of water quality”: A recent state audit found MassDEP is failing to report basic water quality information as required under the Clean Water Act. The auditors urged the department to take a number of steps including “consider other sources to help report the required data.” Other sources could and should include watershed groups like CRWA, who have a robust water quality sampling program in place.

  • CRWA and our partners submitted a joint comment letter in support of a bill that would facilitate clean-ups of home heating oil spills, which are costly to homeowners and pose a risk to our groundwater, wetlands and streams.

  • Earlier this month, CRWA released a statement to stand with the Black Lives Matter movement.

  • Check out the New York Times’ reading list to learn more about the links between racism and the environment. “The movement for a transition to a decarbonized economy cannot succeed until there are structural changes in society to redress centuries of systemic racism.” Read more.

  • CRWA has long advocated for nature-based solutions, and a new report outlines how the best protections from natural disasters come from nature itself.
Get Involved

  • Paddling season is upon us! Stay safe out there and explore the Charles with a waterproof Canoe and Kayak Guide.

Upcoming Events
  • Did you miss any of our past events? You can find all the recordings and related resources online! Watch now.

  • Phase 2 of the Muddy River Restoration Project is set to begin in early July. Join the Maintenance and Management Oversight Committee (MMOC) for a virtual pre-construction tour TONIGHT at 6:00 pm. Learn more.

  • Most events have been made virtual through the summer. We hope you and your family stay safe and healthy during these times!
Charles River Watershed Association |