Wekepeke Brook Watershed Initiative Project

Rushing Rivers Institute (RRI) has studied the Wekepeke Brook’s current ecological status and the potential impacts of a previously proposed spring water removal project by Nestlé Waters North America. The watershed is situated in the towns of Sterling, Leominster, and Lancaster MA. The project aims to utilize scientific and ecological methods to determine the current impacts to fish and macroinvertebrates in the system, while ultimately identifying mitigation options that would improve habitat conditions. These mitigations in effect could offset any damages caused by the originally proposed water withdrawals from the brook.

The 5.1 mile-long Wekepeke Brook is a typical headwater stream in central Massachusetts. In general, the stream is characterized by high amounts of ground water contributions and cold-water temperatures. A 2008 survey conducted by RRI revealed high fish densities but the species observations deviated from the expected community, which should be dominated by brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). The same was true for invertebrate fauna, which also deviated from the expected community. Our study found that the Wekepeke Brook currently undergoes temperature loading and sediment starvation directly below its three reservoirs (Heywood, Lynde and Spring Basin) and has habitat deficits related to the remnant infrastructure within the watershed.

The RRI study determined the brook’s ecological status quo including an analysis of the hydrologic and thermal regimes, water quality, investigations of fish and invertebrate status and through the development of a physical habitat model using the MesoHABSIM technique. RRI has then tested various scenarios that compare available fish habitat under different stream flows conditions to better understand the critical flows of the brook. Now that the study is complete, its findings can be drawn upon to restore and promote the most ecologically-sound management plan for the Wekepeke Brook.