Here's what's happening this month
River News - October, 2017
Volunteers Turn Out for Coastsweep Beach Clean Up

Thirty volunteers came out for our annual Coastsweep event on September 23, collecting over 300 lbs. of trash and debris from the Cherry & Webb beach area. Special thanks to all the students from Westport High School for their participation.

 WRWA takes part in the annual COASTSWEEP beach clean up with the Massachusetts Department of Coastal Zone Management (CZM).  Not only do we pick up the trash, but we also catalog it and send the results back to CZM so that they have a better idea of what hazards are floating out in our waters and where the debris and pollutants are coming from.

Dear Alliance Members and Friends: 
Deborah Weaver, Executive Director
It has been 41 years since a group of forward thinking residents raised their voices and said "heck no" to a proposed sewage lagoon adjacent to our River's East Branch. Imagine what might have happened if those citizens hadn't formed the Westport River Defense Fund to stop that project!  We invite you to donate to our Annual Fund this fall so that we can continue to invest in programs.

Since 1976 we've been the "voice of the River." Here are some of our accomplishments:

♦ Operated one of the longest continuous water testing data   collection program for coliform bacteria in Massachusetts.
♦ Collaborated with Town officials to secure multiple grants   for water management initiatives.
♦ Wrote a successful proposal to the Seaport Economic Council for restoration of the Head of Westport Town Landing. The town received $249,000 for that project.
♦ Over 5,000 WRWA volunteers have worked on various
initiatives and events over 41 years.
♦ Our Watershed Education Program (WEP) has served 50,000 children who participated in school-based and field study programs. Many of them attended Alliance-initiated programs during their entire pre-K-12 schooling.
♦ Planned and delivered 31 free River Day festivals.

The Alliance today:
♦ Has one of the largest memberships of all the Watershed groups in the state.
♦ Has an experienced, professional staff with impressive
credentials and extensive experience, augmented by two emerging Commonwealth Corps leaders who will serve for a year.
♦ Is collaborating with SMAST (Marine Sciences division of UMASS Dartmouth) on an EPA-funded study of the use of oysters to remove nitrogen pollution in Cockeast Pond.

None of this would be possible without your support. We are fortunate to have remarkable members who believe in our mission, care about the future of our watershed, and are willing to donate generously. We hope you will support our Annual Fund this year

 We wish you and your families all the best for the holidays, and invite you to join us for our gathering on Dec. 7th, 2017, 4-6pm at 1151 Main Rd. In 2018 we will celebrate in our new home: The River Center!

Warm regards,
Cockeast Pond Oyster Project Update
We reported in August that the full experiment, to quantify the amount of nitrogen pollution oysters can remove from Cockeast Pond, was in the water. This involved adding more than 500,000 oysters into floating gear placed in the Pond. The oysters have been in the water for over two months now, and we are seeing good survival and growth. Here are some of the tasks we've been working on with the team from the Coastal Systems Program (CSP) at UMASS Dartmouth.
Assemble Oyster Gear  
WRWA staff and Commonwealth Corps Service members worked with CSP scientists, students and interns to assemble the oyster gear; where 250 new cages were constructed. The cages are made with floats and placed over approximately 60 square meters in the Pond (less than 1% of the total area) surrounded by small orange buoys. 
Oyster Sorting
Since July, WRWA has worked with the CSP team to provide field support in the determination of spatial distribution, survivability, viability and mortality of the oysters. Survival rates look very good with more than 90% surviving so far. Some of the oysters even quadrupled in size. The larger oysters were transferred into newly built cages with larger mesh to allow for better water flow.
Sediment Core Collection and Incubation

The CSP team has also gone out to collect multiple sediment cores from the Pond. They do this to measure sediment nutrient regeneration rates. The sediment core collection is complex where ultimately the undisturbed sediment cores are incubated to measure oxygen uptake, nutrient flux and nitrogen (N2) gas emission rate.  
12-16 sediment cores are done at a time and are planned to be taken multiple times annually. The core samples are collected by SCUBA divers. 
Water Sampling - Cockeast Pond 
Sampling stations have been set inside and outside the oyster aquaculture area in a pattern to assess near and far field effects and have built on previous sampling locations in order to relate new water quality data to historical data collected by WRWA in collaboration with CSP. Sampling is done bi-weekly during each of the summer growing seasons.
Approximately 10-12 sampling events are undertaken in a given year. During each sampling event a sample of pond outflow is collected and paired to velocity measurements .
Time-series Dissolved Oxygen and Chlorophyll-a Measurements 
Several analytical instruments mounted on moorings have also been deployed to measure dissolved oxygen, salinity, temperature and chlorophyll-a, both inside and surrounding the area potentially affected by the deployment of oysters. The moorings are set out from July through September within the portion of the Cockeast Pond system where oyster aquaculture is being monitored.
Biodeposit Collection
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. Part of the experiment is collecting and analyzing these biodeposits collected by suspending oysters over biodeposit traps.
The traps are deployed for one to three days with surface pond water samples collected during the particle trap deployment and retrieval.  The surface pond water samples, as well as the trap samples, are processed by the CSP laboratory for chlorophyll-a, total suspended solids, and particulate organic carbon and nitrogen. 
Winter is Coming
All these measurements need to get completed before temperatures drop.  Once waters begin to turn frigid, the oyster cages will be "sunk" in the pond so that they can avoid being frozen in icy pond waters. Then in the spring, we'll work with the CSP team to set up the floating cages and begin the sorting and water quality measurements again. This experiment is planned to last 4 years. At the end of the experiment, as oysters in Cockeast Pond reach maturity, they will be transferred to an area of the East Branch that has previously supported oysters as a mechanism for re-establishing that natural population .
Electronics Recycling Day Brings in Tons of Material

Scores of regional residents took advantage of our recent Electronics Recycling event, safely disposing of old TV's, computers, monitors and other appliances. Along with IndieCycle, we filled two trucks with close to 8,000 pounds of old equipment.

All of the materials go to certified recyclers, who separate components for use in new manufacturing.

This event has become a twice-a-year routine for WRWA and IndieCycle. Our next recycling day will be April 18, 2018.

Boiling Spring Hike Planned for Nov. 4

The Westport River Watershed Alliance (WRWA) has scheduled a watershed walk in the Boiling Spring area of Fall River on Saturday, November 4 at 9 a.m. WRWA Executive Director Deborah Weaver will team up with Green Futures member Roger Garant to lead the walk through conservation land in the northernmost area of the Westport River watershed.

Much of the eastern part of Fall River is forested conservation land, and connected to the 14,000 acre Bioreserve that extends into the Freetown State Forest. The Boiling Spring got its name for the manner in which the underground waters bubble up to the surface. The resulting stream is a tributary of the Westport River. These areas of protected land make a real difference for the watershed, with the natural, undeveloped terrain keeping the waters free of pollution.

The Westport River Watershed covers 100 square miles, extending into the surrounding areas of Fall River, Dartmouth, and Freetown, as well as Tiverton and Little Compton in Rhode Island.
Parking for the Boiling Spring walk will be on Quanapoag Road near the Rod & Gun Club of New Bedford.   Precise directions are posted on the WRWA web page at .

The walk will start promptly at 9 a.m., and appropriate dress and good hiking shoes are recommended. The walk is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is requested, by calling WRWA at 508-636-3016 or emailing

If the weather is questionable, call WRWA on the morning of the walk, or check the Westport River Watershed Alliance Facebook page prior to the walk for cancellation information.
Commonwealth Corps Educators
Will Present "All About Bats" Program

The Westport River Watershed Alliance will host a free, kid-friendly program on bats, just in time for the Halloween season. Please join us on Saturday, October 28 for a free, 90-minute session complete with fun facts, an activity, and a reading of "Bat loves the night" by Nicola Davies.
The program starts at 10 a.m. at the Westport Free Public Library, located at 408 Old County Road in Westport. Please email to pre-register.
For more information, visit .

We love our volunteers! We all got together for our annual volunteer appreciation party in September. Sorry to all those who arrived after this group photo was snapped - we'll catch you next time!

Our volunteers help WRWA in many areas, including water testing, education, and special events; not to mention all the hours devoted by our committee and board members, too numerous to list here. Sincere thanks to all of you!            
Call for Artists!
Oars & Paddles Winter Art Show

Old oars and paddles have been coming in and artists are signing up for our fifth annual Winter Art Show. Interested artists are invited to our adopt-an-oar party on October 27.  Call us at 508-636-3016 or email to get involved.

We still need a few more old oars for our artists -- please check the barn, garage, boathouse or basement to see if you have one or two you could donate.

The Oars and Paddles show will be extended to two weeks in 2018, from February 24 through March 10, at the Dedee Shattuck Gallery.   Silent Auction and Reception on March 10, 5 - 7 p.m.

New 2018 Calendars Now Available 

This year's cover photo: Boathouse Row Sunset by Tim Agnew

Our new 2018 photo calendar is available now, featuring local tide graphs and photos of Westport scenes. This year's photos are the winners chosen from over 75 entries in WRWA's photo contest held this past spring. An independent group of volunteer judges viewed the photos and selected the winners last May.
The photographs, donated by area photographers, represent the most beautiful of Westport landscapes throughout the seasons, along with some remarkable wildlife shots.
"We had many beautiful photos sent in for our photo contest, of familiar vistas and native wildlife," says Deborah Weaver, WRWA Executive Director. "This is another lovely collection of pictures for our 2018 calendar. Our thanks to all the talented photographers!"

The calendars are on sale now at the WRWA headquarters at 1151 Main Road, online at, and locally at Lees Market, Partners Village Store and the Dedee Shattuck Gallery.

Submissions for the 2019 calendar will be sought in spring, 2018.
For more information, contact the Westport River Watershed Alliance at 508-636-3016 or email
Six spotted fishing spider by Steve Kirchten
Creature Feature 
Six-spotted fishing spider
(Dolomedes triton)
by Angela Hilsman
Here's a creepy crawly that you do want to meet this Halloween season. The six-spotted fishing spider will dive below the water's surface to catch food or escape predators, and can stay underwater for up to 30 minutes.

The spider excels in wetland environments because it can both walk on and dive under water. The spider's legs have a wax coating that repels water and fine hairs that distribute its body weight. Fishing spiders trap air bubbles among its body hairs, allowing them to breathe underwater for so long.

The six-spotted fishing spider hunts for food instead of trapping insects in a web. Its favorite meals include minnows, tadpoles, and insects. To catch the underwater creatures, fishing spiders tap their long legs against the water's surface, which attracts small fish. The spiders can pinpoint prey from about seven inches away. The fishing spider strikes prey with its fangs, and releases a venom that liquefies its victim's insides for easier digestion. It can catch fish nearly five times heavier than itself!

Due to its ability to thrive by the water, the six-spotted fishing spider can be found among wetland vegetation and boat docks. There, you might find their webs, which female spiders build to raise their young. The mother spider will lay eggs and wrap them in a silk egg sac --a brown casing, which she holds near her mouth until they hatch. The mother spider will stand guard over the babies, which remain in the web until the first time they shed their skin (about a week after hatching). Shedding that outer layer, or molting, is how the spiders grow, and is a process also common among snakes, crabs, and frogs.

The six-spotted fishing spider gets its name from the six black spots found on the underside of its head. Pairs of white spots also adorn its bottom half, but there's usually more than six. On its frontside, this spider will also have two white or yellow stripes running the length of its head. Keep an eye out for these large, spotted spiders next time you're near a lake, pond, river, or stream.

Poet's Book of Reflections on life at Westport Point
Benefits Watershed Alliance

An unusual
, highly acclaimed book of poetry that centers itself in Westport has just been published. If you think poetry today is incomprehensible or irrelevant, this book may just prove you wrong!
By Richard Dey, a former commercial fisherman and resident there, WESTPORT POINT ♦ Poems spans nearly five decades and includes poems based on offshore lobstering and swordfishing as well as on sailing a Beetle Cat on the Westport river. Other poems concern different boats and people, associating them with various themes. They are equally personal and impersonal, of the sea and the land, in formal and free verse, and a few are humorous. You are as likely to come upon a poem about a capsized boat as about the degradation of the salt marshes. There are two fine elegies also, uniting the deceased with the estuary peninsula.
Richard Dey with his son Russell, boating on the Westport River

Many of these poems were first published in magazines ranging from Poetry to Sail. What makes them unusual is that they are accessible yet literate, and unabashedly about a particular place and its people.
WESTPORT POINT ♦ Poems is available from the Westport River Watershed Alliance online at, at the WRWA office (1151 Main Road) and at Partners Village Store (855 Main Road) in Westport.

Please Save Us Your Lees Receipts!

The Watershed Alliance is a Lees Market Community Partner, and has received over $50,000 from this program since 1989. Please save up your market receipts and drop them off at 1151 Main Road, or mail to
Westport River Watershed Alliance
PO Box 3427 * Westport, MA   02790.     Thank you, Lees Market!

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Westport River Watershed Alliance | 508-636-3016 |

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