Some things that you should know about the Moshassuck River Watershed Alliance (Friends of the Moshassuck)
Organization: Friends of the Moshassuck,
Contacts: Phone 401-331-0529,
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, Executive Director: Greg Gerritt
RICKA Interview with Moshassuck River Watershed Alliance director; Greg Gerrit
History: The Moshassuck River watershed encompasses 15,139 acres, or approximately 23.6 square miles in the Northeastern Rhode Island municipalities of Lincoln, Smithfield, Central Falls, North Providence, Pawtucket and Providence. The term "moshassuck" is a Native American word meaning "where the moose drink" or "moose hunting", referring to an abundance of moose in the wetlands that made up much of the Moshassuck River Valley. None have been spotted in recent years. The headwaters of the Moshassuck in Lincoln – known as Lime Rock- was named for the presence of calcium based rocks originally laid down as limestone and now metamorphosed into marble. This calcium enriched soil, unlike most of New England’s granite based environs, engendered a forest with many diversified and unique plant growth. Lime has been quarried in the area for several hundred years.
During the early colonial era, settlers would burn forested areas and drain wetlands. Early growth in Providence centered on the confluence of the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck Rivers where a commercial hub grew and soon outrivaled the seaport of Newport. Small dams were gradually replaced by larger ones to accommodate the growth of mills from grist mills to textiles. Textile mills later lined the river the entire distance to Saylesville. A canal was built in this era. With ensuing population growth and increased pollution of the river, residents moved away from the Moshassuck and its stench. A cholera outbreak can be blamed on the river and its filth. Subsequently the residents of Providence decided to build a public sewerage system due to this health outbreak. It wasn’t until the mid 20th century and the demise of the textile industry that some marked improvement in water quality actually occurred. To this day toxic chemical and metal sediments still line the bottom layer of the river. The Moshassuck, like many urbanized rivers, will take as long as 100 years to cleanse and flush out its toxins from its riverbed.
Water quality along the Moshassuck River varies considerably due to the variety of land uses near its banks. Visually, the waters are relatively clear near the headwaters but quickly degrade as the river courses through the down stream communities. Before the river reaches Providence the water is discolored and turbid. On rainy days the water is so laden with silts from storm water and Combined Sewer Overflow discharges that even where the river is only a few inches deep one can not see the bottom. There were a total of 32 storm water outfalls identified in the Moshassuck River. The storm water discharge pipe (M24) which is located near the on ramp to I-95 North at the Smithfield Avenue interchange ranked highest for needing a retrofit solution on the river. The pipe drains an area of approximately 5 acres of roadway which handles more than 30,000 vehicles per day. The annual load of pollutants entering from this one discharge pipe is a staggering 92,000 pounds per year. The Moshassuck thus remains a river that is not suited to swimming of fishing in any downstream sections. Recent tests for pathogens in the last 10 years do show lower concentrations of nutrients, lead, copper, nickel, cadmium and chromium.
Projects: Friends of the Moshassuck (FOTM) started in 1998 because the lower part of the river really needed some friends. One of their first projects was the restoration of Collyer Field, which was started with the help of EPA and Save the Bay. This Providence site now has an active tree planting program, and more restoration plans are underway.
FOTM also developed a vision of a greenway linking the restoration sites along the Moshassuck. FOTM has developed partnerships with many organizations, including the National Park Service, Groundwork Providence, the Woodlawn Neighborhood Association, the City of Pawtucket, Youthbuild in both Pawtucket and Providence, and other citizens along the river. Restoration efforts on the Moshassuck continue with the help of these partners. Remove the following sentence is is out of dateIn addition, FOTM is in the process of developing canoe/kayak launches on Galego Ct Pond and Canada Pond with funding from the Rhode Island Foundation.
Reviewed by Greg Gerritt
Submitted by Conservation Chairman Bill Luther