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2020 EPA Report Card Grades for the Charles River
Charles River Report Card

Determining the Health of Our Watershed in 2020

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The 2020 Report Card for the Charles River is out!  

Similar to trends in past years, five out of six river segments were graded in the "A" or "B" range, with Muddy River tributary being the lone exception with a "D-". The grades, which are based on E. Coli data collected monthly at thirty-nine sampling sites across the watershed by our Volunteer Monthly Monitors, also take into account Cyanobacteria blooms and combined sewer overflows to give a comprehensive look at how safe the river is for recreation.
“The wide variety in Charles River grades reflect the predominant land use around each area. Areas with more development and impervious surface are more polluted. We have work to do to restore all areas of the Charles to be ecologically healthy”, said CRWA Executive Director Emily Norton.
The Charles River grades, which were released in tandem by the Charles River, Mystic River, and Neponset River Watershed Associations, show we have made significant progress, but there is still too much sewage and polluted stormwater runoff entering the most populated areas of the watershed.

CRWA Executive Director Emily Norton holds the Charles River Report Card as she presents at the EPA announcement event at Deer Island.
Flood Predictions for the Charles River
Rain, Rain, Go Away! The Charles River Flood Model is live. Check out the flood predictions for your community and learn how nature-based solutions will mitigate climate change-induced flooding risks.

This model comes at an important time. Our region has seen over 9.5” of rain so far this month, an astounding 6” more than average rainfall totals for the entire month of July. Following Tropical Storm Elsa and subsequent rains, the Charles River remained above flood stage in Dover from July 12th to 17th according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Charles River Flood Model visualizes the impacts of various storm events based on current conditions and increasingly severe storms that will become more common with climate change. Created in partnership with 15 communities in the Upper and Middle Charles River watershed, funded by the MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs FY21 MVP Action Grant Program, and developed by Weston & Sampson, this flood model can help communities protect vulnerable populations and property from flooding by predicting where and when flooding will occur.
“CRWA is excited to have led this regional effort,” said Julie Wood, CRWA Deputy Director. “This is a critical step to taking action as a region to effectively mitigate the expected flooding impacts of climate change. The model provides valuable information that will allow communities to make informed decisions about policy changes and on-the-ground interventions necessary to protect people and nature in the future”. 

Investigate the flood predictions for your neighborhood. Use this tutorial as a guide for exploring the model, learn more about how it was developed, and become an expert in the green infrastructure solutions we need to prepare for climate change.
News at a Glance
  • Great news! The Massachusetts House passed the Public Lands Preservation Act, championed by Rep. Ruth Blaser and Sen. Jamie Eldridge. CRWA testified in support of this bill back in May, highlighting the importance of protecting public lands and open space as we work to build climate resilience. We urge the Massachusetts Senate to take up this bill quickly and pass it!

  • CRWA is awaiting results from MassDEP in the ongoing investigation after many paddlers reported noxious odors, an oily surface sheen, and dead fish in the Medfield, Sherborn, and Natick sections of the Charles River. While MassDEP has ruled out illegal discharges, our science team measured very low dissolved oxygen levels, which can likely be attributed to all of the heavy rain and stormwater pollution entering the river in the last few weeks. We were interviewed by Boston 25 News and WCVB Boston about this developing situation. 

  • CRWA testified during the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change hearing on Community, Municipal, and Regional Climate Resilience on inland flooding risks and solutions. Executive Director Emily Norton emphasized the value of nature-based solutions, and the need to think big and be bold, especially in areas with more pavement and impervious surfaces, if we are to avoid massive flooding damage as we experience more frequent intense precipitation events in the future.

  • The state legislature is currently deciding how to spend $5.3 billion in federal COVID relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. The Baker administration has proposed allocating nearly a billion dollars to climate resilience, parks, and long-overdue water infrastructure investments. CRWA submitted written testimony supporting using these funds to kick-start investments in nature-based solutions, including measures identified by the flood model as necessary to effectively reduce flooding and adapt to our changing climate. 

  • CRWA testified before the legislature in support of a bill that would close a loophole that allows 40B developments to bypass critical local wetlands protections. Building housing in areas that are vulnerable to flooding and other issues will place future residents at risk, further exacerbating existing inequities. At the same time, protecting wetlands and floodplains helps mitigate severe flooding and also improves resilience to extreme heat, storms and severe weather, and drought. 

  • We are delighted to participate in the Urban Forest Plan Community Advisory Board, along with other stakeholders interested in protecting and expanding the Boston tree canopy in order to build climate resilience and protect against heat island effects. Trees provide clean air, habitat for wildlife, cooler temperatures, and are essential for happiness and health in our communities. More urban portions of the watershed have significant areas where the heat island effect is especially severe and score low on the Tree Equity Score from American Forests.

  • CRWA weighed in with MassDEP in support of regulatory updates that would expand the state’s ability to impose water conservation restrictions during droughts. As droughts become more frequent and severe, everyone must do their part to conserve water -- limiting lawn watering, car washing, and pool filling during dry spells is a good first step.

  • At the Cambridge Conservation Commission meeting, CRWA discussed invasive species growth in the Lower Basin of the Charles River. An external review confirmed that the Charles River is facing a “dire situation” when it comes to aquatic invasive plant growth. Not only do these invasive species choke out light and essential nutrients from native plants and wildlife, but they also inhibit paddlers and rowers.

  • We need dam removal and we need it now! Check out this video from the Town of Natick that provides a great example of the tangible harm dams cause. After several great leaps, a resident trout is still unable to make it over the South Natick Dam. We need to restore fish passage by removing these aging dams that are inhibiting wildlife and recreation alike. 

We are so grateful to the Barr Foundation for supporting CRWA’s work to increase climate resilience in the Charles River Watershed with a $200,000, 24-month grant. This funding will allow CRWA to help municipal appointed and elected leaders take action to invest in nature-based solutions both within their borders, and on a regional basis, to protect people and property from the weather extremes of climate change.   

Thank you to outgoing Board Member Sarah Slaughter who has stepped down from the Board of Directors after over ten years of service. Sarah leaves big shoes to fill as she served as Treasurer as well as Chair of the Investment Committee. We are grateful to Sarah for her many years of service and vital insights, especially on financial matters. 
Volunteer Monthly Monitors Barb Meyer & Bill Nicholson sample the Stop River tributary at dawn.
Thank you to our team of over eighty dedicated community scientists who participate in CRWA's Volunteer Monthly Monitoring Program. Their tireless efforts make the 2020 EPA Report Card Results possible and without their monitoring efforts at early hours, we wouldn’t have such an in-depth look at water quality in all of the reaches of the Charles River.
Our Invasive Species Removal program is in full swing! Over the course of July, our volunteer groups have worked together to remove a whopping seventy-five baskets of water chestnuts from the Charles! Special shoutout to Paddle Boston leaders Nathan, Chuck, and Larry, volunteer teams from OncXerna Therapeutics, Inc., HGA, Cygnal Therapeutics, Sappi North America, and twenty community volunteers for their hard work fighting invasives in the Lakes District.

In 2018 and 2019 GoogleServe and a team of Googlers partnered with CRWA to remove water chestnuts from the Charles River to restore the ecosystems disrupted by the growth of this invasive species. This year, Googlers were unable to get out on the water to remove water chestnuts, but that did not stop them from supporting CRWA and our mission. They chose to participate in virtual Cleanups to continue their impact and make sure their local watershed communities were taken care of to protect the Charles. Thank you Googlers for your continued partnership and support! We look forward to getting you back out on the water next year. 

New Board Members
Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) is excited to announce three new members to our Board of Directors: Stephanie Hsia , Ihssane Leckey , and Matt Jasmin.

Hsia holds a Master’s in landscape architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, a Master of environmental science and management from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and currently serves as an associate with Reed Hilderbrand where she provides strategic landscape architecture and urban design work as a project manager. Most recently, she led the development of the City of Cambridge’s Urban Forest Master Plan, a bicycle and pedestrian greenway in Tampa, FL, and a private waterfront residence in New Hampshire. 

A former candidate for the U.S. Congress in Massachusetts’ 4th district and self-described progressive champion, Leckey has been a longtime organizer and advocate for racial, social, and economic justice for all. After immigrating to the United States from Morocco in 2005, she put herself through community college on minimum wage work and eventually obtained a BA in economics and math from Boston University. Previously she has worked to eliminate food deserts in economically challenged communities and served as a Wall Street regulator at the Federal Reserve.

Jasmin is a Senior Civil Engineer at Howard Stein Hudson as well as a Captain Engineering Officer with the US Air Force National Guard, and an adjunct professor at Francis College of Engineering at UMass Lowell. In addition to a MA in Civil Engineering with a transportation focus from UMass Lowell, Jasmin has over 10 years of progressive experience in program management, project management, highway, and complete streets design, construction inspection, and oversight. 
Photo of the Month
Our Natural Valley Storage Area wetlands have been doing some heavy lifting with all of this severe rain. The NVSA is completely flooded by Claybrook Rd. in Dover. It's easy to see the critical role wetlands play in protecting downstream areas like Boston from flooding.
Farewell to Amy & New Hires
With the close of the Terracorp program year, our volunteer leader and invasive species extraordinaire Amy Walker will be moving on.

At CRWA, Amy acted as the Community Engagement Coordinator, spending countless hours bolstering our invasive species removal initiatives and working closely with the River Science team on the VMM and flagging programs. We are so grateful to Amy for all of her contributions!

In the coming months, Amy will be working as an environmental science educator in West Virginia and preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail next summer. 

Robert Kearns serves as CRWA’s Climate Resilience Specialist working to implement Climate Resilience 101 virtual training sessions for local officials, develop a strategic plan for the Charles River Climate Compact, and further the organization’s advocacy and community engagement goals. Prior to joining CRWA, Robert served as Youth Education and Community Engagement Coordinator with Mass Audubon’s Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary through the Americorps program, TerraCorps. Robert holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he focused on the intersection of the environment, policy, and law.  

Julia Hopkins serves as the Communications & Outreach Manager working alongside the science and advocacy staff to connect the public to the vital conservation work of CRWA. Prior to joining the team, Julia worked as a photojournalist at the Daily Item, a local newspaper in Lynn, MA, and before, as a Data Communication Intern at CRWA and seasonal steward at the Trustees of Massachusetts. Julia attended Boston College where she received a B.A. in Studio Art and worked as the Photo Editor for the Heights, the independent student newspaper. Her background in media, communications, and art, combined with a passion for conservation, brings Julia to CRWA with the aspiration to use storytelling to inform, connect, and inspire others to play an active role in protecting the Charles River.
Get Involved
SAVE THE DATE! On Thursday, October 14, 2021, join Boston’s top environmental leaders at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge to celebrate U.S. Senator Ed Markey, CRWA’s 2021 Champion of the Charles. At the Champion of the Charles Gala, guests will enjoy a magical and elegant evening while raising funds to protect and enhance the Charles River for generations to come. Secure your tickets and consider being a sponsor to support CRWA in restoring and protecting the Charles River.

Join us TONIGHT for the Flagging Program Informational Session. At this in-person event, you will learn all about the Flagging Program and water quality alerts from Aquatic Scientist Lisa Kumpf. All boaters, paddlers, interested members of the public are welcome. The event will be held from 6:30-7:30 pm at Watertown Yacht Club.

Spoiler: The Flagging Program Twitter bot is the best place to get live updates on water quality in the Lower Basin. Check-in every morning before you head out on the water! 

Come together to fight invasive water chestnuts and bittersweet, all while getting outside along the Charles. Our Invasive Species Removal group volunteer events are a great opportunity to build team camaraderie with your office, social club, or family. Volunteer opportunities will be available for group registration every Friday 9 am - 12 pm until Friday, October 15. Check out our calendar of events and email Andrew Salant, our fieldwork coordinator, at to register your group.
Charles River Watershed Association |
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