Located in the Town of Boxford, Fish Brook originates at Stiles Pond and discharges into the Ipswich River near Masconomet Regional High School. Fed by springs, groundwater, runoff and snowmelt, Fish Brook was once classified as a cold water fishery by MA Fish & Wildlife. That classification changed in the mid 1990’s when a new dam was installed at Stiles Pond without a former low water discharge device, together with increased residential water withdrawals, all of which adversely affected water quality and temperature. Remnants of a native brook trout population in Fish Brook were occasionally identified into the early 2000’s, however, the diminishing quality of habitat has all but eliminated this species, although fall fish continue to be present in the upper reaches of the stream. The Chapter has undertaken several projects with the objective of improving water quality and habitat in Fish Brook and its tributaries. Our long term goal is to bring back native cold water species to Fish Brook and to encourage a holder-over population of hatchery fish, including brown and brook trout.
Project #1 – Longmeadow Brook Improvements
Originating deep within the Boxford State Forest, Longmeadow Brook meanders through protected woodlands, crossing beneath Middleton Road and into the Lockwood Forest preserve before it empties into Fish Brook. Natural and human events diverted the flow of Longmeadow Brook in the 1980’s in a manner that directed the Brook into and beneath an ancient stone wall alongside Fish Brook. This barrier impeded upstream fish passage which is critical during spring and fall spawning and as a cold water refuge during warm summer months. With the approval of the Boxford Conservation Commission, Chapter members removed this barrier and improved passage by modifying the streambed to ensure a steady and even flow into Fish Brook. The discharge of Longmeadow Brook’s cooling waters now serves at as favorite location of hatchery trout in the warm summer months.
Project #2 Crooked Pond Brook – Lockwood Lane Culvert Replacement
Crooked Pond Brook, a tributary of Fish Brook, originates at Crooked Pond within the Boxford State Forest and the J.C. Phillips Sanctuary. The Brook passes beneath Middleton Road and through Boxford’s protected Lockwood Forest. The Bay Circuit Trial crosses over Crooked Pond Brook at Lockwood Lane. The Brook contributes a cold, high pH water discharge into Fish Brook, however, at the Bay Circuit Trail traverse, two 36” elevated culverts prevented fish and wildlife passage. Through the combined efforts of the Chapter, MA Mosquito Control, the Town of Boxford Conservation Commission and Department of Public Works, the twin culverts were removed and replaced by a corrugated, embedded steel culvert that ensures fish and wildlife passage and accommodates heavy spring runoff. This improvement offers a cold water refuge during summer months and the possibility of spawning habitat for coldwater species. The costs of this project were covered in part through a 2013 TU Embrace-A-Stream Grant.
Project #3 Crooked Pond Brook – Middleton Road Culvert Replacement
Installation of the new Middleton Road Culvert was completed in August 2018. This four-sided concrete culvert replaces a failing 24” corrugated metal culvert which was elevated above the bed of Crooked Pond Brook, preventing fish and wildlife passage from Fish Brook into Crooked Pond. This completes a three-year saga of securing federal funding under a FEMA Grant (75%), funding contributions (25%) from the Town of Boxford, and navigating a myriad of administrative, design, engineering, regulatory and legal hurdles. The total cost of this Project exceeded $400,000 and could not have been accomplished without the continuing efforts of members of TU Nor’East, and the Town of Boxford, as well as representatives from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), DCR and DEP. Special thanks goes out to John Dold (Boxford DPW Superintendent), Ross Povenmire (Boxford Cons Com Director) and Dave Woodbury (MEMA Project Coordinator). Contributing Chapter members included Mike O’Neill (Project Engineer), Jim MacDougall (Environmental/Wetlands), Greg Murrer (Grant Writer/Legal) and Chett Walsh (Project Cost Estimator/Advisor).
The state of Massachusetts has endeavored to make culvert replacements habitat-friendly by adopting its River and Stream Crossing Standards which require that new culverts meet certain openness ratios and replicate streambed conditions. In this case, a 24” culvert became a 12ft X 6ft passage between the J.C. Phillips Sanctuary (state property) and the Town’s Lockwood
Forest. As shown in these pictures, the base of the culvert sits below the streambed satisfying “embeddedness” requirements while the interior of the culvert contains a precise mixture of sand, stone and rocks, duplicating the existing streambed. A cap is then put in place and wing walls installed at the invert and outlet. During the construction phase water is pumped
around the construction site on a 24-hour basis.
For Chapter members who participated in the Longmeadow Brook and Lockwood Lane Culvert Projects, this Project completes a three-phase effort to provide the flow of cooling waters into Fish Brook while enabling fish to travel freely to Crooked Pond amidst lands that will forever be protected as state and Town conservation properties.
Here’s a quick video of our projects along Crooked Pond Brook.