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Parker River Freshwater Mainstem Subwatershed Information

Municipalities: North Andover, Boxford, Georgetown, Groveland, West Newbury, Newbury.
Estimated Population: 7400

General Description: This subwatershed originates in North Andover and West Boxford and is the headwaters of the main stem of the Parker River. Six large hills – Byers, Russell, Foster, Wood, Bayn’s, and Shaven Crown – are the primary geologic features that form the upper boundary of this subwatershed. Unnamed tributaries meet in West Boxford to form the Parker River.

The land use is primarily residential and open space, some of which has been protected by the Georgetown Water District or through conservation restrictions. In addition, a large portion of the Crane Pond Wildlife Management Area is located within this subwatershed. Industrial/commercial areas in Georgetown are also located in this subwatershed.

The public water supply areas for Georgetown and Newbury are located in this subwatershed.  Undeveloped land use has declined from 7064 acres in 1991 to 6722 acres in 1999; residential land use has risen from 1965 acres in 1991 to 2349 acres in 1999.

Land Area: 9,320 acres (14.6 square miles)

Land Use as of 1999: Undeveloped – 6722 acres (72% of the subwatershed, Forest is 54%)

Residential – 2349 acres (25% of the subwatershed)

Commercial/Industrial – 249 acres (3% of the subwatershed)

Named Tributaries: Lufkin Brook (locally named)

Lakes and Ponds: Cole’s Pond, Crane Pond, Pentucket Pond, Rock Pond, Sperry’s Pond.

Rapid Watershed Assessment: The proportion of impervious cover in this subwatershed is estimated to be 4.3%, based upon 1999 land use information. This is a slight increase from the 1991 impervious area estimate of 3.8%. The water quality would be expected to be of high quality.

While a comprehensive survey has not been done, one would expect to find excellent habitat, diverse communities, and a stable stream channel. However, some localized impacts from summer low flows, road runoff, non-point source pollution and habitat alteration are likely. Impacts are expected with future growth, predicted by a recently completed build-out analysis.

Water Quality Information: This section of the Parker River is listed as needing confirmation of impairment due to flow alteration. Portions or the river have been observed to go dry in recent years, but not in all years. Sperry’s and Crane Pond are listed as impaired due to noxious aquatic plants. Mercury in fish in this area appears to be higher than the state average and fish consumption advisories have been issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for Pentucket Pond and Rock Pond. The advisory can be found at

The invasive aquatic plant fanwort, Cabomba caroliniana was found in Pentucket Pond in 1997.  The town of Georgetown has taken steps to control its spread. With funding from several state agencies, Georgetown, through its consultant the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, is investigating the causes of high coliform bacteria at the town beach. The Merrimack Valley Planning Commission will also be conducting a watershed assessment for Rock and Pentucket
Ponds from funds secured through the Massachusetts Watershed Initiative.

Stormwater management practices are being implemented by the town to address some of the suspected sources of the bacterial contamination at Pentucket Pond. Through the efforts of the Department of Environmental Protection, the Georgetown Housing Authority has recently upgraded and improved
the wastewater management system at the Trestle Way property. This should result in improved water quality conditions in Pentucket Pond.

The Parker River Clean Water Association has conducted volunteer monitoring at six locations in this subwatershed. The Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Watershed Management had conducted water quality monitoring at several sites in 1975, 1978, 1984 and 1994. In 1999 biomonitoring replaced the DEP water quality monitoring program. Monitoring has shown that instream nitrogen and phosphorous concentrations are lower than many other
Massachusetts rivers. Dissolved oxygen can be depressed during the summer low flow period. The Parker River Clean Water Association conducts a fish count at several sites in this subwatershed during the spring alewife run.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management conducted a pond assessment in Pentucket Pond in 1997; results for the parameters tested fell within the normal range for a healthy lake, however aquatic plant growth is dense in some areas of the pond.

Wildlife and Fisheries: The Parker River, Rock Pond and Pentucket Pond are stocked with trout and the river is managed for anadromous fish (alewife). Several sites of Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Priority Site and Rare Habitat are located within this subwatershed. Blanding’s turtle have been found in this subwatershed. A tracking study is being conducted to identify habitat of this Threatened species in the Boxford and Groveland area.

Land Protection: Groveland and Georgetown have begun investigating ways of protecting land along the Parker River and bordering areas in the Merrimack River watershed. This area includes a proposed subdivision known as Stephenson’s Way. Boxford has a number of potential land protection projects in the headwaters. Another area of interest for the Georgetown Open Space Committee is an area between Pentucket Pond and Wheeler Brook.

Recommendations: Continue working with the Town of Georgetown on the Pentucket Pond, Rock Pond watershed management plan. Keep a watchful eye for fanwort in Pentucket Pond. Determine the effectiveness of the new Pentucket Pond fish ladder as well as assisting with its operation and maintenance. Continue to work with the Essex County Sportsmen’s Association, Essex County Greenbelt Association and Parker River Clean Water Association, on all fish ladders in the subwatershed. Review mitigation monitoring reports for Duffy’s Landing well, Georgetown. Seek to obtain aquatic habitat information of this subwatershed, possibly through a volunteer stream survey. Need to certify vernal pools. Follow the progress of the Blanding’s turtle tracking study.
Review draft list of impaired waterbodies and prioritize actions to correct the impairment, work to delist some segments or monitor to determine status of impairment. Conduct stream survey and aquatic habitat survey.

(Data obtained from the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Massachusetts Watershed Initiative, 2002 Watershed Assessment Report)

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