Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Preparing to Close the Saxonville Floodgates

Driving across the Sudbury River on Concord Street in Saxonville today I noticed unusual activity on the north side of the William R. Dickson Bridge.
Framingham DPW personnel were preparing the huge floodgates for possible closing. I drive by these gates nearly every day and have oftened wondered if they were still operable. When closed, the gates fill the only gap in the levee built to protect the area once known as Otter Neck from being inundated during a 100-year storm event.
On the internet I found a link to an article written by Dan McDonald that appeared in the Metrowest Daily News back in September 2008. Within the article there is a  link to a YouTube video showing the last time the gates were tested.  Click here to see the article and video.

Monday, March 29, 2010

New Weapon in the War Against Aquatic Trash

It's called the "Come Hither" and was fabricated on this rainy afternoon. No longer will bottles and cans, knowing they are just beyond the outstretched reach of my kayak paddle, be able to taunt me. With this tool, originally designed for cleaning windows, I'll be able to hook them from the shrubbery and bring them alongside for eventual boarding.
Speaking of the war against aquatic trash, did you know that the state of Michigan has a 10-cent deposit on soda and beer containers? Their redemption rate is 97%.
We here in Massachusetts, still holding on to the outdated 5-cent deposit, have only a 70% redemption rate. I wonder if the fact that the State receives all unclaimed deposits has anything to do with keeping the deposit at 5-cents. Some reports show the state of Massachusetts receiving 11 million dollars annually from unclaimed deposits. It could be called a "lazy tax".  We're too lazy to stop paying it and the state's too lazy to stop accepting it.  It's time to be a dime!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Annisquam River was the Antidote

After a few weeks of being hemmed-in by local river bridges having little or no clearance, this morning I found the cure. Of course it took working a graveyard shift at a plant near the north shore of Massachusetts to make it happen. Getting off work at 7:30am put me within easy striking distance of the Annisquam River and both the tide and weather were fair. I launched into the Jones River not far from Wingaersheek Beach and headed towards the nearby Annisquam. Where the two rivers join, this house boat provided testament to the severity of the past winter's nor'easters...

On the way to Wigwam Point, I passed this gull happily ensconced in its waterfront home having the very lucky address and color...

Reaching Wigwam Point, I took in this view of Annisquam Lighthouse...

At this point I turned around and paddled against the outgoing tide to reach the spot where I took the opening photo of the A Piatt Andrew Bridge. On the way I passed several groups of ducks. One small group of mergansers consisted of three males competing for the affections of 2 females. My uneducated guess is that they were red-breasted mergansers. Also seen were common eiders and several large groups of these ducks or geese...

Possibly, they're Brant? They were quite talkative!
Not much of a trash patrol today as I didn't see anything other than a television set someone kindly left at the launch site. Hard to believe it floated there but I suppose it's possible.
Just as the first high clouds started to appear I was out of the water and on the way home. A cured man!
Note: Clicking on any photo produces a larger image. A second click zooms in even more.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Denied Redemption, the Sad Ride Home

This old world may never change
The way it's been
And all the ways of war
Can't change it back again

I've been searchin'
For the dolphins in the sea
And sometimes I wonder
Do you ever think of me

I'm not the one to tell this world
How to get along
I only know the peace will come
When all hate is gone

I've been searchin'...

You know sometimes I think about
Saturday's child
And all about the time
When we were running wild

I've been searchin'...

This old world may never change
This world may never change
This world may never change

It was Fred Neil's deep voice singing those lyrics from The Dolphins that was heard on the way home from Bottle Bill's Redemption Center in Framingham this morning. It was to have been a good time for all 110 containers, but unfortunately half the group was denied redemption due to a technicality. Yes, they were soda bottles just like the others but because they'd spent too much time in the water while searching for the dolphins, the plastic wrapper bearing their redeemable status had been lost. Thus denied redemption, they watched as their associates, still bearing the appropriate paperwork, were redeemed at the whopping rate of 4-cents per bottle. That's right, only 4-cents per bottle. Back in 1983 that probably seemed fair, but in 2010 it only seems obsurd! It's not the redeemer's fault. They can't afford to give the whole nickel and stay in business. I think it's time for all containers to be treated equally and the redemption amount should be raised to a whole dime! Suppose any beverage manufacturer would support such a radical measure? Just one?
So, the once proud soda bottles, having been deemed as valueless as juice and water containers, were unceremoniously placed back into the trunk of my car for a trip to a common recycling bin. It was Fred's song they requested to hear. You can listen-in and feel their pain by going to this link and clicking in upper right corner.
Once, a long time ago, we citizens of Massachusetts had a Bottle Bill we could be proud of. Nowadays, not so much!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sudbury River-Little Farms to Power Lines & Back

Today's original plan was to say "farewell" to Old Man Winter while paddling the waters of Lake Cochituate. While the ice is gone and open water beckons, the gate to the launch area was being kept closed by DCR.
So, it was back to Little Farms Road in Framingham and another foray amongst the flotsam that continues its seemingly endless parade downriver. In just a little over a mile of river 174 pieces of trash were retrieved. It brokedown as 88 recyclable containers (30 redeemable) and 86 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish such as styrofoam cups, paper plates, plastic bags, etc. My YTD total stands at 1136. Pictured are the disgorged contents of my ship's hold...

Conditions today were ideal and other critters enjoying the river were wood ducks, small woodpeckers, and a mink.
By the way, I did let Old Man Winter know that he needn't hurry back!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sudbury River- Little Farms, Concord St., Stone Bridge

T'was a fine day indeed for a little trashpaddling, being Saint Paddy's Day and all!
Launched at Little Farms Road in Framingham and headed against an impressive current towards Saxonville. The opening photograph shows an MWRA construction project I passed along the way. Work appears to be on hold till the water levels drop. It is located where one of the aquaducts crosses under the river.
With water levels so high there was a bumper crop of trash. In a backwater just after passing under Danforth St., there were about 36 plastic bottles. A good number of them were green in color to honor the day.
Any hopes of getting a photo of the Saxonville water-level gauge were dashed when I reached the Concord Street bridge. Wasn't enough room for even a leprechaun to pass under...

After turning around I found myself looking down this high & wide straightaway section of river...

Looks almost like a race track. For anyone that wonders just how fast a kayak could go on such a straight course, check out this link.
My trip downriver was at a much slower rate of speed. In fact, it was effortless and soon I found myself looking at the old stone bridge with no portals visible...

This became my other turn around point, though it would have been possible to go around the bridge's missing left end. Passing under the "hot dog" bridge, I was able to reach up with my paddle and touch the bottom of the large aquaduct pipe.
Trash recovery kept me busy today and with a full boat I returned to Little Farms and began unloading the day's catch. The gang posed in the sun for this group shot...

Naturally, the green bottles insisted on standing together! The count for the day was 158. The breakdown was: 111 recyclable (39 redeemable) and 47 miscellaneous rubbish such as styrofoam, plastic bags, nip bottles, etc. YTD total stands at 962. Ain't life grand!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Assabet Express at Powdermill Dam

The past three days of rain produced this nice display of hydraulic power at Acton's Powdermill Dam!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Smart, Clean, Green: Innovative Water Systems for Our Communities

This was the title of today’s well attended forum hosted by State Senator Jamie Eldridge and co-sponsored by the Organization for the Assabet River (OAR), Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund. The event was held in Maynard at Clock Tower Place (aka “The Mill”) where, in the past, a portion of the Assabet River used to report for work every day.
One presenter’s slide seemed particularly relevant to the need for such innovation with this quote from Lord Selborne: “One can first of all simply wonder at the fact that it is only recently that humanity has begun to ponder the evolution and fate of water in the world when the very survival of our species depends on it.”
Speakers introduced the concept of seeing wastewater as wasted water when we send it out of its watershed. Storm water is also wasted when allowed to runoff into streams and rivers rather than recharging the local aquifers.
Bob Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Charles River Watershed Association, showed an example of how retaining wastewater and storm water for local benefit would allow one community to offset the negative effects from adding two new drinking water wells necessary for future growth. He also said it could all be as simple as just “mimicking nature” and observing how it behaves before we modify it. By doing so, he suggested we could achieve a mesotrophic or “stable state” where the nutrients in our waters are in balance.
Brent Regor, Public Health Director for the Town of Concord, suggested that the time is here for serious consideration of water reuse. I for one hope he is right and that folks have moved past the “Yuck” factor. I remember back in the 1980s when a Killington Vermont ski resort floated the idea of using treated wastewater effluent for snow making. All it took to squash the plan was one newspaper cartoon showing two skiers on a ski lift gripping toilet plungers instead of ski poles! Hopefully, we’ve moved past the point where we can be so easily dissuaded from utilizing such innovation.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sudbury River - Little Farms, Oxbow, & Stone Bridge

Early this afternoon I launched my boat into the Sudbury River at Little Farms Rd in Framingham. The combination of beautiful spring weather and high water levels allowed me to traverse the mile-long Oxbow and drink in its tranquil environment. This turtle was doing the same thing and seemed unconcerned with my presence...

The Oxbow plays host to at least three beaver lodges and also hosts this water intake station for a nearby sand & gravel operation...

Wildlife seen in the Oxbow included wood ducks, woodpeckers, robins, red-winged blackbirds, and a napping beaver. I exited the with only a modest amount of trash and began heading downriver. Almost immediately I encountered sizable accumulations of trash that had been flushed downstream by the recent heavy flows. Additionally, at Stone Bridge Road (on Wayland side), someone had thrown several bags of trash over the guardrail and it now rested at water's edge.
I trash patrolled down to the point where the river is forced to make a hard right turn by a 25-foot high ridgeline. With my boat nearly full to the gills, I turned around and began heading back upriver. The opening photo shows the Stone Bridge basking in the afternoon sun. Where the bridge abruptly ends a young fellow was trying his luck with rod & reel.
Back at Little Farms Rd. there wasn't enough beach on which to photograph the assemblage, so we moved things up to the parking area where the usual rowdiness ensued...

The trash count for the patrol was 172. It brokedown as follows: 82 recyclable (17 redeemable) and 90 pieces of misc. rubbish such as nip bottles, plastic bags, take-out food containers, styrofoam, and the top of a cooler. YTD total = 804.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Pantry Brook & Back

With the ice finally open enough to allow passage across Fairhaven Bay, I was able to trash patrol the Sudbury River up to the Pantry Brook impoundment (aka duck heaven).
I launched into the river at about 8:30 this morning with the promise of a springlike day. Initially concerned I was overdressed but the cool wind from the west kept things comfortable.
Paddling upriver, just past Martha's Point, the sound of a gurgling stream drew me into a cove and a few pieces of trash were recovered. Out of the corner of my eye there was movement and I noticed something hiding behind a rock and tree...

After a minute or so, a beaver emerged from hiding and slowly made his way towards the water. On the way, he stopped and with him I had a just and equal encounter of the eyes, as between two honest creatures...

Beavers and musquashes were both looking to soak in the rays today. I came upon this furry little critter curled-up in the nook of a tree...

Pretty sure it was a musquash (aka muskrat). Later saw another doing the same thing.
I saw two beavers taking some sun from their rooftop patios. One is pictured here...

When I reached the mouth of Pantry Brook, I found the water level high enough to pass over the beaver dam (built on top of the human dam) and enter the impoundment (opening photo). However, there was still enough ice to keep me from proceeding much further into the impoundment. So, after a snack break, I began the trip downriver or perhaps I should say down lake as the river's main channel is hardly discernible. When the water is this high, a paddler can go as the crow flys. While so engaged another small ship pulled alongside. It was Jeff P. paddling his Zastera racing kayak...

This exotic boat is a long way from where it was built in Prague, Czechoslovakia!
Jeff is a frequent paddler around these parts.
Several red-tailed hawks were seen soaring in the sky today. Also seen were mergansers, mallards, and Canada geese.
Trash was steady with most of it found in the brambles. Like everyone else today, my motely crew of stow-a-ways wanted their moment in the sun...

The count for the day was 53 pieces of trash. Breakdown as follows: 27 recyclable (15 redeemable) and 26 were misc. rubbish such as an empty bag of ice melt (that worked quite well) and the usual plastic bags and styrofoam. YTD total= 632

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Heaths Bridge & Return

While trash patrolling the Sudbury River between Rt.62 and Heaths Bridge (Sudbury Rd.) today, I noticed this damage to the Route 2 overpass near Emerson Hospital. Concord Police were notified and they're going to contact Mass Highway. Hopefully, the damage is only decorative and not structural.
It was kind of a weird day out on the water. In the brightening sky, the sun had a large ring similar to a rainbow completely surrounding it. The wind was still blowing out the north with a wintry bite. However, once out of the wind, the building warmth from the sun had a springlike feel. Kinda in between!
Thanks to the high water levels, floating trash was plentiful and accessible. A considerable amount of trash was gathered from alongside Route 2 near the wildlife underpasses.
After passing Clamshell Bank, I noticed what looked like two large birds on the ice in the distance...

At first I dismissed them as probably being stumps rising out of the water. Next, I spotted a large hawk in flight and while watching it through my binoculars discovered it was an eagle...

I watched it land on the ice next to the other two (not stumps) and then take flight again. Two of the three eagles seen had white heads and tails while the third did not and may have been an immature eagle. The three took off as I got nearer and shortly thereafter these four mergansers flew above me...

Just upstream of Heaths Bridge my boat and I made landfall for the purpose of transloading the day's catch and I noticed this sign where shore fishermen would gain access to the river...

It may be more effective if translated into the same langauges as the "Do Not Eat the Fish" signs nearby.
While ashore, all passengers, disembarked and enjoyed a brief leg-stretching in the mid-afternoon sunshine...

The total count for the day was 94 pieces of trash. Of these, 35 were recyclable (21 redeemable) and 59 were miscellaneous rubbish such as plastic bags, styrofoam in multiple forms, and some paper/cardboard. My YTD total stands at 579.
I've no idea why, but this morning I awoke thinking of my favorite passage from Thoreau's Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers..."By noon we were let down into the Merrimack through the locks at Middlesex, just above Pawtucket Falls, by a serene and liberal-minded man, who came quietly from his book, though his duties, we supposed, did not require him to open the locks on Sundays. With him we had a just and equal encounter of the eyes, as between two honest men."