Letter: Westport River — Thoughts on maintaining the status quo

Posted 10/31/19

To the editor:

A year ago, the Town of Westport began the preparation of a Targeted Integrated Water Resources Management Plan for the Westport River estuary. The results of that work will be …

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Letter: Westport River — Thoughts on maintaining the status quo

Posted

To the editor:

A year ago, the Town of Westport began the preparation of a Targeted Integrated Water Resources Management Plan for the Westport River estuary. The results of that work will be presented next Wednesday, November 13, at 6 p.m. at the Town Hall Annex.

Over this past year there has been input from many interests in the town. There are, of course, advocates for change, but there are also those who point to improving nitrogen levels in some reaches of the river as evidence for standing pat. They also offer as evidence for maintaining the status quo perspectives of the past and that things are getting better. A past of much larger dairy farms, with larger manure piles, cows wandering in brooks directly tributary to the river, and cottages right on the river with cesspools. That look at the past would also show a much smaller year-round population in those cottages.

The inescapable truth is that what we do on the watershed will affect the river. Improved septic systems, better stormwater controls, increased wetlands protection and better farm management all help. But nitrogen put in and on the land, no matter where in the watershed, eventually makes its way to the river. The reality is growth in the watershed will occur and will likely increase the load on the river. However, the river’s capacity to handle that load will not increase. In fact, the river shows its stress in seasonal algae blooms, shrinking sea grass beds, more contaminated shellfish grounds and eroded salt marshes. The river’s beauty is not proof of its health.

It is within the memory of many when there were much more dense eel grass beds, shellfishery extending to above Hixbridge, and larger salt marsh islands. Now the salt marsh edges are bare, and the red/green harvest area shellfish signs are far south in the estuary. The river is changing; the climate is changing, and our land uses in the watershed have to change to help the river regain its health.

Not acting and maintaining the status quo does not save money. It only defers costs for our children and grandchildren to pay — costs hidden in swimming restrictions after rainfalls, no shellfishing, and responses to enforcement actions to clean the river. One doesn’t have to look far for coastal waters where that future is today’s norm.

It’s our time to act. Come add your voice to the discussion on how to do so on the 13.

Bob Daylor

Chairman of the Working Group

Water Resources Management Plan

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