UMass Scientist Says Mashpee Watershed is In Trouble

Waquoit Bay in Falmouth is part of the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Waquoit Bay in Falmouth is part of the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

MASHPEE – Director of the Coastal Systems Program and professor of Marine Science and Technology Brian Howes has reviewed the water samples of Popponesset and Waquoit Bays taken by the Mashpee Water Quality Test Program, and he said the results aren’t positive.

The volunteer water sample collection program tests 34 sites in the bays each summer, a process Howes called extremely successful.

But both show significant water quality degradation and loss of eel grass habitat, he said.

“These are some of the most nutrient-loaded watersheds on Cape Cod,” he said. “Especially because of these high microalgal accumulations which smother the bottom, prevent eelgrass from recovering, and prevent things like fish and shellfish from utilizing the bottom.”

He presented these findings to selectmen recently, just weeks after the board rejected a town meeting article which would have asked for $200,000 in wastewater projects.

But those are precisely the programs which Howes said must be implemented to improve water quality.

Howes said assessment studies are also valuable, such as the one currently being conducted in Falmouth’s portion of Quashnet River.

He said that the watersheds cannot be restored until oxygen, animals and eel grass can make a comeback in the ponds surrounding the region.

Increased tidal exchange through consistent dredging is another possibility, Howes said.

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