Mascoma River Watershed
Precious Resource Helps Shape a Region
Frank Rivet of Canaan, N.H., tightens a knot in his line after changing lures while ice fishing with William Hoehl Jr., of Canaan, at Mascoma Lake in Enfield, N.H., on March 29, 2014. "We'll be going till it's not safe," Hoehl said. Because of the long winter, fishermen were able to ice fish into April. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Adelaide Cesanek, 5, of Grafton, N.H., with her brother Benton, left, 10, feels the temperature of a cold pool of water on top of Mount Cardigan while their parents, John and Jen Cesanek, seek shelter from the wind on July 6, 2014. The mountain marks the eastern edge of the Mascoma River watershed, with water falling on its western slope eventually draining into the Connecticut River via the Indian and Mascoma rivers. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Mount Lebanon School fourth grade student Maisie Gaudet peers through a "Creature Peeper" to get a close look at freshwater invertebrates collected in the Mascoma River, while standing with classmate Taya Gagne, left, in West Lebanon, N.H., on May 2, 2014. Students in the background walk to the bank of the Mascoma River to use equipment to assess the water quality before releasing the developing trout they had been studying. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Sally Sharp of Enfield, N.H., rows to a sloop as Gary Orkney of Stonington, Conn., and Bill Fontaine, right, of West Lebanon, N.H., take down its sail at Mascoma Lake in Enfield on July 3, 2014. "It's sort of a classic inland lake," said Fontaine, who took over from Sharp as Commodore of the Mascoma Sailing Club. "It's a real community treasure, I think." (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Scott Osgood of Henniker, N.H., follows procedure by dumping out a sampling bucket twice before taking a water sample for the Volunteer River Assessment Program (VRAP) at Hardy Hill Brook in Lebanon, N.H., on July 11, 2014. Osgood tests several nearby streams from June to September for water quality indicators like pH, oxygen concentration, temperature and conductivity. The data is reported to the DES, and New Hampshire is one of a few states where the data is accepted by the EPA. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Trout alevin rest in a petri dish in Melissa Allen's fourth grade class while being observed by students at Mount Lebanon School in West Lebanon, N.H., on April 29, 2014. The school received 200 eggs from the New Hampton Fish Hatchery for a program on the trout's life cycle and several classes had been observing the 150-day-old fish larvae since they hatched in late February. A student had given a funeral outside the school building for one larvae, named Fred, who hadn't survived. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Fly fishing lures for sale at Upper Valley Outfitters in Lebanon, N.H., carry names like "Bugmeister Dry Fly" and "Glow in the Ass Caddis," on July 9, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
A man brings his dog for a ride on a paddleboard on Canaan Street Lake, which lies east of the Mascoma River in Canaan, N.H., on July 12, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Russ Macedo of White River Junction, Vt., volunteers with a small group, led by Paul Coats of Lebanon Recreation & Parks, to build a deck overlooking the Mascoma River in downtown Lebanon, N.H., on June 29, 2014. New wood joined old railroad ties on the site of an old train bridge, which is now a pedestrian pathway and part of the Mascoma Greenway. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Scott Osgood of Henniker, N.H., conducts Volunteer River Assessment Program (VRAP) testing for water quality indicators like pH, oxygen concentration, temperature and conductivity in Great Brook at Storrs Hill Ski Area in Lebanon, N.H., on July 11, 2014. Osgood tests several nearby streams from June to September. The data is reported to the DES, and New Hampshire is one of a few states where the data is accepted by the EPA. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
After bacteria digest the dissolved solids in sewage at the Lebanon Wastewater Treatment Plant, the secondary clarifier, pictured on July 10, 2014, removes the bacteria before the water travels to the Connecticut River beyond. For water taken from the Mascoma River for human use, the plant marks its exit from the Mascoma River watershed. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
A stream flows past the West Ridge Trail in Cardigan Mountain State Park in Orange, N.H., on July 6, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Valley News - Shawn Braley
Sort of like air, watersheds are both ubiquitous and easy to overlook. Yet, they shape nearly every aspect of life within their boundaries — recreation and tourism, flora and fauna, development and industry. The waterbodies within them are where residents fish, swim, ice skate and boat, and, sometimes, even the source of drinking water. In the Mascoma River watershed, any time of year finds people in and on the water, playing in it, learning from it, and working to protect it.
A 195-square-mile section of land shaped roughly like a rectangle, the watershed reaches into the northern parts of Dorchester and Lyme, east into Orange, south to small sections of Springfield and Grantham, and west through Lebanon, to where the Mascoma River empties into the Connecticut. It includes all of Canaan, most of Enfield and Lebanon, and portions of Hanover, Grafton and Plainfield. More than 500 miles of streams and rivers flow through the watershed, and its ponds and lakes are among the area’s most popular recreation spots — Goose Pond and Grafton Pond, Mascoma Lake and Canaan Street Lake.
There are 2,110 watersheds in the continental U.S., according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A watershed is an area where all of the water under the ground, and all of the water that drains off of it, wind up in the same place. In this case, that’s the Mascoma River.
Once a dumping ground for local industry, the river is now considered an environmental success story. It’s benefited from a number of occurrences over the decades — the closing of the mills in Lebanon, the passage of environmental regulations such as the Clean Water Act, and an ongoing stormwater separation project in the city, and local groups are striving to keep the river and surrounding watershed clean and healthy. Volunteers and students regularly test the water quality in several locations, “weed watchers” labor to halt the spread of invasive species, and others organize regular cleanups.
Saturday , the Rotary Club of Lebanon and the Rotary Club of Lebanon-Riverside held their biennial cleanup of the Mascoma River. The event started in 1996, and after all that time organizer Ernst Oidtmann is still amazed by the number of tires they pull from the river, usually 20 a year, he said. Volunteers generally work on foot or from boats to remove the garbage, but sometimes getting the job done requires an extra boost. Four years ago, they enlisted the help of a diver, who attached cables to a 500-pound boiler so it could be pulled out with a backhoe, Oidtmann said.
Those who enjoy the river will be able to see even more of it when the Mascoma River Greenway is completed. The 4-mile multi-use pathway will extend from the Northern Rail Trail at Spencer Street in downtown Lebanon to Westboro Railyard in West Lebanon. The project is progressing as money and volunteers are available and engineering work is accomplished, said Paul Coats, director of the city’s Recreation and Parks Department. Work on a “significant portion” of the trail, from the central area extending west, must wait until after the federal government has officially abandoned that stretch.
The Mascoma River Greenway Coalition has set a goal of raising $2.2 million for the project. So far, it’s reached $1.6 million, including private and in-kind donations and $330,000 from the city. Its efforts include working with people willing to hold house parties to promote and support the greenway. “So much progress will be dependent on public funding,” Coats said.
In 2011, the Mascoma River was added to the state’s list of protected rivers, so designated for their role as outstanding natural and cultural resources. The protected 25-mile stretch of river extends from the outlet on Canaan Street Lake to where it meets the Connecticut. The span is overseen by the Mascoma River Local Advisory Committee, a volunteer board that promotes recognition and appreciation of the river and works to protect it.
A study this September, conducted by Shane Csiki, will assess flood risks on an 8-mile stretch of the main stem of the river in Lebanon. In the past several years, “a lot of flooding issues” have affected infrastructure, homes and businesses across the state, said Csiki, fluvial geomorphology specialist and flood hazards program manager with the New Hampshire Geological Survey. Similar studies are being done across the state to identify potential problems, such as eroding stream banks, undersized culverts, and sections of river that have been straightened and may be trying to meander again, Csiki said. The results are given to regional planning commissions, which help towns integrate the information into their hazard mitigation plans. Some issues identified by the studies may be eligible for hazard mitigation funds.
As of Thursday, about 50 people had signed up to help with Saturday’s cleanup, and more always turn up during the day, Oidtmann said. The refuse they find is shuttled by pickup truck to two large dumpsters, one for trash, another for steel. In addition to being fun for the volunteers, the cleanup also raises awareness of the Mascoma, Oidtmann said.
Up until about 20 years ago, people used the river as a trash dump, he said. “Now we are turning around to say, ‘This is a priceless piece of scenery.’”
Aimee Caruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3210.