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Stream Habitat Projects
The Committee supports projects which improve and protect high-quality coldwater habitat, especially for native reproducing populations of Eastern Brook Trout. In addition, the Committee participates in regional collaborations to protect and restore habitat, including serving as an active member of the Westfield River Invasive Species Partnership (WISP).
Kinne Brook, a designated high quality coldwater tributary within the Middle Branch of the Westfield River, currently has three barriers: two 4-foot culverts on an unpaved town road and a small run-of river dam approximately 20 feet wide and 6 feet high. Eastern brook trout presently exist across a wide range of the Middle Branch. However, recent survey results have identified declining native fish populations on Kinne Brook tributaries. This decline can be directly attributed to reduced stream connectivity created by increased habitat fragmentation and reduced access to high quality coldwater habitat. By removing these barriers and allowing the stream to return to its natural flow regime, this project will enhance overall aquatic organism passage and increase multi species migration, spawning and rearing habitat as well as thermal refugia. The Committee has provided a portion of the funds for Design, Engineering and Construction. In addition, the Committee has provided technical assistance and support for permit applications, field surveys and pre-restoration monitoring.
Active partnerships among a broad range of public agencies, non-profit organizations, and concerned individuals work to conserve the Westfield River watershed, and to identify and mitigate threats to the Westfield River and its tributaries. As part of these efforts, the Westfield River Watershed Invasive Species Partnership (WISP) was formed to manage invasive species and to restore native plant communities throughout the watershed. An assessment of invasive plant species conducted in 2010 identified general patterns of invasive species distribution across the watershed. However, no comprehensive inventory and mapping of invasive species populations had been conducted for the rivershores and adjacent floodplains of critical sections of the East and West Branches of the Westfield River. In addition, no recent assessment of rare species and priority natural communities has been conducted for these river segments. During the Summer of 2013, with funds from the Committee, a comprehensive inventory and mapping of all invasive plant species populations along a 10-mile section of the East Branch of the Westfield River, and a 3.5 mile section of the West Branch. Such an inventory is critical for guiding and prioritizing invasive species management along the Westfield River, and for protection of rare species populations and restoration of priority natural communities.