The Value of Water: Part three – The Flow of the Mumford River

Okay, Mumford River?! – now you are probably saying where is she going with this one! Who cares about the Mumford River! This is Manchaug! Doesn’t she have enough to write about?

Well, I’ve been re-reading my copy of the Mumford River Low Flow Study (better than reading Dam Removal in Massachusetts: A Basic Guide for Project Proponents!) If you remember the low flow study, you are shaking your head up and down fully aware of where we are going! Click the link on our blog or read it in the original Notice of Intent filed by the dam owner. Anyway, the low flow study was published in 2003 for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs by the engineering firm of Gomez and Sullivan to specifically investigate recurring low-flow observations in the river; from Manchaug Pond, Whitin Res. and every pond, dam and use east along the Mumford River to the Blackstone River in Uxbridge.

The work and concern of own Douglas Conservation Commissioner, Mr. Mike Yacino is cited along with those of the Blackstone River Watershed as the reason for the study. (1st page, second paragraph) The study reveals that Mr. Yacino’s observations, experience, and volunteer work were right on target! His concern is valid not only from a conservation/environmental perspective but because the Douglas Water/Sewer Department (user of 15% of the flow) in 1998-2001 was the second largest user of the river with increase use each year of the study! (Let’s hope Mr. Yacino is re-appointed to his position on the commission!)

Other big users included the Whitinsville Water Company (70%), the Interface Fabrics mill(13%), and the Whitinsville Golf Course (2%). Water was/is also withdrawn and trucked out of the watershed to the Milford power plant during the summer months for cooling water use and sold by WWC outside the watershed.

The study reveals: “From the Mumford River’s origin at the outlet of Manchaug Pond to the confluence with the Blackstone River there are 13 mainstem dams. The river travels approximately 13.5 miles over this same stretch and has a total drainage area of 56.6 mi2 – thus: there is approximately one dam every mile. There are roughly 37 dams impounding ponds, lakes, and reservoirs in the Mumford River watershed…. The most prominent waterbodies in the watershed that are over 50 acres in size include: Crystal Lake (94 acres), Manchaug Reservoir (353-380), Stevens Pond (83 acres), Whitin Reservoir (330 acres), Lackey Pond (120 acres), Meadow Pond (55 acres), Whitins Pond (135 acres), and Carpenter Reservoir (83 acres)….”

Note that Manchaug is by far the largest : “Manchaug and Whitin Reservoirs collectively control a large portion of the Mumford River flow. These two reservoirs have significant storage capacity …” We are the big players! A recently reappointed Douglas Conservation Commissioner stated to me that if Manchaug was breached, the dam at Stevens Pond would take care of the town. I think not – Steven’s does not have the storage capacity of Manchaug which is filled with snow melt and spring rains, and stores the water, with Whitin to “supplement naturally low flow conditions by reducing impoundment levels in the summer to maintain 16cfs below Gilboa Pond.” (the staff gauge is below Gilboa Pond in Douglas and is mandated by MassDEP.)

So given all that, what do you think?

Well, I think… #1. Manchaug and Whitin have the largest acreage and storage capacity of the river. Breach Manchaug… and see the river, Whitins, and every pond all the way to the Blackstone in big trouble not to mention every user. It will redefine the term low-flow!

So that makes me feel like … there is NO WAY the state will allow the dam owner to breach the headwaters of the Mumford River. We haven’t even talked about wetlands, fisheries, etc. There’s the value of Manchaug!

#2. Looking at the big water users: drinking water (Whitinsville, Northbridge and other towns), waste water treatment (Douglas, Northbridge), irrigation (Whitinsville Golf Course), power plant (Milford). and soon the hydroelectric plant at Alternatives Unlimited. Hmmm.

Let’s look at the little water users at Manchaug: the 120 lakeshore residents (40% year round – 60% seasonal), the 3 campgrounds’ day swimmers and campers, the YMCA Camp for inner city kids, the Waters Farm view, numerous fishing and canoe/kayak clubs and Joe Boater from the ramp. Hmmm.

Then there are the creatures who call Manchaug home who only have our voice: fish, birds, muskrats (or is that the Tucker Pond beaver?), frogs, turtles, dragonflies, etc.

So that makes me think of the value of this water in terms of ownership and control!

For the record: The members of the Manchaug Pond Association do not take this water for granted and from day one – actually before 1967 when the association was founded! – see the value of Manchaug Pond. We will continue to work towards its preservation and towards a workable solution.