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News Streamflow releases lead to improved ecological conditions during 2016 drought

  • Division of Ecological Restoration
Pecks Brook in Pittsfield

DER has been working with multiple partners in Pittsfield to improve streamflow downstream of dams on recreational lakes. Dam and lake management can result in alteration of natural streamflow patterns which can negatively impact aquatic ecosystems, including reductions in the abundance and diversity of macroinvertebrates. Starting in 2013, the City of Pittsfield began implementing new dam management practices at Onota Lake based on a guidance document prepared by DER and project partners. The new management practices seek to maintain recreational lake levels while improving streamflow and ecosystem health in the Lake’s outlet stream, Pecks Brook.

Since new dam management has been implemented, DER and partners have been monitoring the Brook to evaluate improvements. Streamflow has greatly improved with periods of no flow eliminated and rapid changes in flow due to dam management minimized. Summer flows within target range have also been achieved, even in 2016 under severe drought conditions. The target range was established in the guidance document and represents ideal flow for a stream in the summer.

Macroinvertebrate communities in the Brook have also started to rebound. Monitoring in 2016 shows that total macroinvertebrate community metric scores in Pecks Brook have nearly doubled since implementation began in 2013 (Figure 1) while habitat assessment scores have remained the same.

Division of Ecological Restoration 

DER restores and protects rivers, wetlands, and watersheds in Massachusetts for the benefit of people and the environment.