The Westfield supports a population of approximately 85,000 people. Due to its steep slopes and thin rocky soils, the Westfield River water levels rise quickly following rain events and fall rapidly during dry spells. In all, the watershed includes 636 miles of rivers and streams, as well as over 4550 acres of lakes and ponds.
There are over 43 miles of federally designated Wild and Scenic waters on the Westfield River. Eight municipalities receive all or part of their drinking water from reservoirs in the watershed. The upper Westfield River is also one of the few successful spawning areas in the state for the Atlantic salmon. The watershed hosts the oldest continuously run white water canoe race in the United States, the Westfield River Whitewater Race, which is held every spring. The watershed also encompasses the Cobble Mountain Reservoir, which constitutes the second largest water supply in Massachusetts and is responsible for supplying water to the City of Springfield and most of its surrounding communities.
- The Westfield River is home to Atlantic salmon and other migratory fish. Passage of these fish is a major concern in the watershed. Dam removal and habitat protection are important elements in making an easier passage for the fish. Due to this, a dam on Yokum Brook has been removed.
- Open Space protection has increased in priority due to the recent release of the Massachusetts Open Space Plan, identifying the upper portion of the watershed as being of highest statewide interest.
- Much more interest has recently arisen regarding the Wild and Scenic River designation and what that means to landowners, communities, and open space protection efforts.
- Water quality improvements in the lower sections of the river are necessary in order to continue and expand recreational activities in and along the river.
An eelway was constructed at the DSI dam in West Springfield to allow easier passage to the Westfield River and its tributaries.
EEA's Lakes and Ponds Initiative awarded the City of Westfield a grant for the restoration of Pequot Pond, a 303(d) impaired water body and heavily used recreational lake.
Along with the help of others, DCR has created a Woodlands Cooperative in western Massachusetts. Helping private landowners develop sustainable forests will lead to much better protection of these resources.
The Wild and Scenic River designation is being expanded from 43 miles to approximately 80 miles.
In the coming months, the following issues will be worked on in the watershed:
Fish passage at the Woronoco Dam in Russell, the first dam upstream of DSI, is being planned. Dam removal on Yokum Brook in Becket is well into the planning stages.
The location, kinds, and amounts of invasive plants in the watershed are relatively unknown and inventories need to be done.
A mussel survey in portions of the Westfield River should be undertaken soon to help determine river habitats and population dynamics better.
Implementation and coordination of open space protection projects will be high on the list of priorities for the next few years.
- Westfield River Watershed Action Plan file size 41MB
- Westfield River Watershed Open Space and Recreation Plan
This information is provided by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Office of Water Policy