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Study stills water concern

Little danger posed to rare species by demand

May 13, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — The town got a preliminary look at what effect increasing its water withdrawal from the reservoirs might have on endangered species, and it appears minimal.

But the study itself stops at the Quinebaug River, leaving river advocates like Robert Noiseux of the Friends of the Quinebaug wondering why such reviews are "done in a vacuum."

To him, the actual withdrawal level means less than what returns to the river with the water later.

"If Southbridge takes a million gallons, it's eventually going to come back in one form or another," Noiseux said. "You can guarantee that whatever comes back is going to have a lot more compounds in it."

Actually, the town's permit now allows it to draw 2 million gallons a day from the reservoirs, but DPW Director Kenneth Kalinowski is shepherding an application to increase that to 4.49 million. That water now comes primarily from three reservoirs off Breakneck Road holding water from Hatchet Brook; the town's backup supply is Cohasse Brook Reservoir. Both brooks are tributaries of the Quinebaug River.

A few months ago, the town hired Stantec Engineering to study the potential impact of extra water being removed from the brooks (especially at low-flow periods). The firm's preliminary report, which environmental scientist Nicole Sanford presented to the Conservation Commission Tuesday, looked at effects on two small areas that have been identified as habitat for the endangered triangle floater mussel and/or a rare turtle and the fact Hatchet Brook is itself a cold-water fishery home to native trout.

Those two areas are the swamp where Hatchet dumps into the Quinebaug in Westville Park and an area of Cohasse Brook near the country club. It also makes passing reference to the fact the river itself is stocked annually with trout, but they cannot typically survive there long-term because it's too warm.

See Friday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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