Working for the communities of Conway, Deerfield, Hatfield, Northampton, Whately & Williamsburg, Massachusetts
The goals of the Mill River Watershed Project are to make science, research, and planning resources available to watershed officials and residents and to develop a coordinated, community-based approach to resource protection across town boundaries.
To accomplish these goals, researchers from Smith College, the University of Massachusetts and UMass Extension have been conducting a range of environmental assessments to document the health of the Mill River and its tributaries. Since 1997 these have included:
In addition, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments has completed a wetlands functional deficit analysis, which identifies areas that were historically wetlands, and, with assistance from the University of Massachusetts, has conducted a preliminary assessment of potential threats to water resources from land use activities.
UMass Extension has been and continues to work with local residents, town officials, state and federal agencies and private non-profits to raise public awareness about natural resource issues, provide technical assistance to local boards and farmers, protect key habitats and wildlife corridors, and develop a cohesive plan to mitigate water quality and quantity problems.
Raising Awareness: A grant from Massachusetts Riverways allowed UMass Extension to design and , produce signs identifying all the named tributaries in the watershed. The local public works departments installed the signs.
Like cities and towns everywhere, the communities in the Mill River Watershed are faced with the challenge of maintaining their fiscal health while also protecting the environment, their agricultural base and their rural characters. To have both a strong economy and a healthy environment, CLEAN WATER is abasic necessity. Protecting this resource for the long run requires.
This watershed approach to resource protection provides additional benefits in agricultural sustainability, forest health, wildlife habitat, and recreation.
The Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, which is working with local governments and landowners to protect wildlife habitat throughout the four-state Connecticut River watershed, has identified the Mill River watershed as a high priority because of the outstanding wildlife habitat. At present the Mill River and its tributaries support the greatest diversity of freshwater mussels in Massachusetts, including the state's only viable population of Federally Endangered dwarf wedgemussels, and the western portion of the watershed is part of one of the largest blocks of unfragmented forest in Massachusetts. This priority status for the Mill River watershed means that towns in the watershed will have an opportunity to draw on an extensive network of resources and expertise to address their water quality and natural resource concerns.
Over the next several years, towns in the Mill River watershed will have an unusual opportunity to improve the area's natural resources and quality of life. These projects can range from protecting open space to training local teachers about natural resource issues to upgrading faulty bridges like this one (left), which is impeding floodwaters and fish passage and causing an increase in erosion. Businesses can get involved by providing volunteers to help pull invasive plants, monitor water levels or develop nature trails. Towns can take advantage of training workshops held for board of health, planning and conservation commission members. Farmers can get assistance from the University on technical issues and state and federal farm viability programs.
Project partners work together to:
The Mill River Watershed Project is a broad partnership of state and federal agencies, regional planning agencies, and educational institutions.
Town boards of selectmen, boards of health, planning boards, water districts, departments of public works, and conservation commissions, as well as local businesses and citizens are all be invited to play a central role.