Can the fish cross the road?

It may sound silly, but this question is actually key to understanding the health and future of the Neponset River watershed.

Summer Fun in the Field

This past summer, NepRWA measured over a hundred stream crossings, in seven towns, to determine if fish could swim through them. Thanks to our dedicated team of staff, interns, and volunteers we can answer the eternal question. Can a fish cross the road? What we found was very encouraging.


If a stream crossing is poorly designed it can block fish and other aquatic animals from “crossing the road”, preventing them from accessing upstream habitat for food, shelter, and breeding.

Examples of poorly designed culverts that create barriers for fish and other aquatic wildlife


Brook Trout Need Our Help

Native brook trout and other cold water species are highly sensitive to increases in water temperature. For trout, this means access to deep cold spots during a hot summer drought could be a matter of life or death. It also means our trout are especially vulnerable to climate change.

Unfortunately, climate scientists are predicting hotter summers with more frequent and intense droughts for the Neponset watershed. So, if we want to improve our wildlife’s chances for survival we need to make sure that they can get to where they need to go. For this reason, we focused on the Neponset River’s cold water streams that brook trout call home. This study was the first part of our Embrace-A-Stream collaboration with GBTU. The collaboration will develop a road map to restore the Neponset’s native brook trout fisheries.

The Good News!

We discovered no severe barriers and only 3 significant barriers to fish passage. The vast majority of crossings were minor or insignificant barriers.

What we discovered

 

  • Pine Tree Brook in Milton and Beaver Brook in Sharon had the best stream crossings.
    • All of those crossings were minor or insignificant barriers for trout.
  • Mill Brook in Westwood, Ponkapoag Brook in Canton, and Purgatory Brook in Norwood had the worst stream crossings.
    • They each had several moderate barriers.
  • Mill Brook, Ponkapoag Brook and Mill Mine Brook in Walpole each had a significant barrier.

 

The next step will be working with our watershed towns to address the problem crossings with wildlife friendly upgrades.



Learn More

To learn more about the methods we used to assess our stream crossings, visit the North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative (NAACC) Website.

Special thanks to Greater Boston Trout Unlimited and the Foundation for MetroWest for supporting this important initiative.


Chris Hirsch, Environmental Scientist  12/30/2020

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