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 – 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 – Middleton Road Culvert Replacement
Constructed in the 1940’s the Crooked Pond Brook Culvert at Middleton Road is in extremely poor condition. The Culvert is also undersized, contributing to overflows across Middleton Road and significant erosion of the downstream Road embankment. In addition, the culvert is elevated high above the stream bed creating a deep plunge pool and precluding fish and wildlife passage upstream to Crooked Pond. For reasons of conservation and public safety, the Chapter teamed with the Town of Boxford’s Department of Public Works to explore replacement of this culvert. These efforts resulted in the design of a 62’ four-sided concrete box culvert and the securing of $383,000 in FEMA ($288,000) and Town ($95,000) funds. Chapter members have worked closely with the Town’s Conservation Commission and Department of Public Works as well as State and Federal officials to secure the necessary permits for this project which is expected to go out for bid in March 2018 with a projected completion date of August 2018.