Poquonnock River Initiative formed to protect and restore watershed

Aug 17th, 2010 | By | Category: Featured Story, Pollution, River, Stormwater Runoff, Water Conservation

The Pequonnock River Initiative (PRI) — a partnership between the City of Bridgeport and the towns of Monroe and Trumbull — was formed recently to develop a watershed plan for the Pequonnock River watershed.  The goal of the Initiative is to complete a comprehensive, scientifically-sound, and practical planning document for the protection and restoration of water resources in the Pequonnock River watershed by the summer of 2011.

The watershed plan will detail the existing conditions of the watershed and identify its current problems and sources of pollution. Also, it will address emerging issues facing the watershed, and will outline detailed action steps for implementation. The plan will have the potential to affect on-the-ground change within the watershed.

MISSION

The mission of the Pequonnock River Initiative is to protect and improve the water quality, habitat, and public enjoyment of the Pequonnock River and its watershed.

ORGANIZATION

Several agencies and organizations, working collaboratively, have brought the Pequonnock River Initiative to fruition.  The City of Bridgeport received a Section 319 grant from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection to hire an engineering consultant to perform the technical components of a watershed plan for the Pequonnock Watershed.  Bridgeport has engaged the firm Fuss & O’Neill, an experienced group of water resource professionals. The DEP also awarded a Section 604(b) grant of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for this project led by Save the Sound, a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Inc. and the Southwest Conservation District.  Save the Sound’s responsibilities include the formation of a watershed coalition, organizing workshop meetings, assisting in the development of watershed plan recommendations, and doing public education and outreach.  Additionally, Harbor Watch/River Watch, a program of Earthplace, The Nature Discovery Center at Westport has received 319 funding provided by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act to perform water quality testing of the Pequonnock River for the years 2009 and 2010.

A Steering Committee has been formed consisting of a core group of representatives from the governments and commissions of each of the watershed’s towns in Bridgeport, Trumbull, and Monroe.  Also, a number of state agencies, non-profit groups, community organizations, and individuals are participating members.  The Steering Committee will help shape the goals, objectives, and final recommendations of the watershed plan.  It is hoped that a sustainable watershed coalition can continue forward beyond 2011 and take charge of implementing the action plans outlined in the final watershed plan.

ABOUT THE WATERSHED

A watershed can be defined as the land area that contributes runoff to a particular point along a waterway. In the case of the Pequonnock River, it captures runoff, or drainage from, a 29 square mile area that includes the City of Bridgeport and the towns of Trumbull and Monroe. The Pequonnock Watershed is also comprised of smaller sub-watersheds, of which ten have been identified. Each of these ten sub-watersheds are in many ways different from each other, and as a result, will have different water resource objectives.

The Pequonnock River begins in Monroe in a mostly forested area with fresh water marshes and little development. It bends to the southeast through William E. Wolfe Park and then flows to Great Hollow Lake. From there the Pequonnock River leaves the park and flows through an industrial park on the Monroe/Trumbull line.

Once the River enters Trumbull it crosses Spring Hill Road and enters a second industrial park before it crosses Monroe Turnpike and skirts the western edge of Old Mine Park. Much of the river in Trumbull flows through wooded areas with reasonable margins of riparian buffer and limited residential development. Once the brook reaches Daniel’s Farm Road, the river enters a congested corridor between White Plains Road to the west and route 25 to the east. Ultimately, the river skirts the western edge of Twin Brooks Park where it makes a confluence with Booth Hill Brook and heads south under the Merrit Parkway to enter the western edge of Unity Park.

The Pequonnock crosses under route 8 and enters the City of Bridgeport and Bunnell’s Pond. The pond is approximately a mile long with route 25 and a concrete bank on the west side and Beardsley Park on the east bank. Once the River flows over a large concrete dam and leaves the park it enters a long tunnel and emerges in the old industrial area of Bridgeport on its way to Bridgeport Harbor. This section of the River is in a deteriorating section of the City with discarded scrap metal in the river water and crumbling banks supported with aging pilings and concrete bulkheads.

WATER QUALITY

For the period of May 1, 2009 through September 30, 2009, the Harbor Watch/River Watch  Program at Earthplace conducted water sampling at 10 sites along the main stem of the Pequonnock River; from the river’s origin in the woodlands of Monroe, to the foot of the river as it reaches Bridgeport Harbor. Water samples were collected and analyzed for temperature, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen, as well as fecal coliform and E. coli (Escherichia coli) bacteria levels.  E. coli is considered an indicator organism.  If high levels of E. coli are found in water samples, these bacteria can “indicate” that there are also potential high levels of other harmful, disease causing pathogens (bacteria and viruses).

Prior to the monitoring study, it was hypothesized that water quality should decline as the river flows from Monroe (little development) to Bridgeport (high urban development).  The results generally verified this hypothesis.

Results of  E. coli testing showed that, on average, the testing sites from Monroe to the base of Bunnell’s Pond in Bridgeport  meet the state’s classification for a Class B river.  The remaining sites southward to the foot of the river in Bridgeport, all have light to moderate levels of E. Coli, with levels increasing as the river approaches Bridgeport Harbor. The highest level of E. Coli was found at the most southerly testing site near the harbor.  This latter finding is expected based on the condition of the shoreline with crumbling bulk heading, possible unseen discharges, a disturbed river bottom, and the presence of combined sewage overflows.

The ultimate goal of the Pequonnock Watershed plan is to see reductions in the levels of E.coli, and achieve a Class A status for all portions of the river.  To view the entire Harbor Watch/River Watch 2009 water quality report please go to “Maps and Downloads” and read “Water Quality Report 2009”.

MAPS & DOWNLOADS

Download – Water Quality Report ’09

Various GIS maps created by Fuss & O’Neill

Download – Aerial Photographs

Download – Flood Zones

Download – Impaired Waters

Download – Land Use

Download – Soil Suitability for Pervious Pavement

Download – Water Quality

CONTACT

To learn more about the Pequonnock River Initiative, and ways that you can participate, please contact the Coordinator, Chris Cryder of Save the Sound, at 203-787-0646 ext: 127 or ccryder@savethesound.org.

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