Taunton Watershed Stream Continuity Project

Connecting Streams & Improving Wildlife Access

Stream continuity bridge example

Across Massachusetts, our rivers and streams are in need of a makeover. Thousands of outdated dams and culverts create barriers that prevent passage of fish and other wildlife, impair water quality, and increase flood hazards.

One place in particular need of attention in Massachusetts is the Taunton River watershed, where areas of high ecological importance are crisscrossed by roads and other barriers. 

Project Report

In June 2017, Mass Audubon and the Taunton River Watershed Alliance released Stream Continuity Assessment in the Taunton Watershed, a report detailing the findings of more than 500 stream crossing assessments in the Taunton River watershed.

Data & Methods

Between 2006 and 2014, surveys were conducted in 27 municipalities within the Taunton watershed using the Massachusetts River and Stream Continuity Project system for assessing and prioritizing stream crossings. Dozens of volunteers and partner organizations assisted with these assessments, and the process is ongoing.

The report summarizes the results of the 2006-2014 field assessments and the degree to which each crossing represents a barrier to aquatic passage, along with the condition of the surveyed crossings.

Key Findings

To restore stream continuity and healthy aquatic ecosystems for the future, crossings that create barriers to passage must be replaced with structures that are designed and constructed to maintain streamflow and other natural conditions to the greatest extent possible.

Cities and towns in the Taunton River watershed have critical roles in advancing replacement projects that will benefit ecological systems as well as human health, safety, and welfare by preventing water stagnation, flooding, and road wash-outs. Preventing these impacts is more important now than ever as we face increasing storm intensities due to climate change.

How to Use the Report

This report serves as a guide for residents and municipal officials to prioritize opportunities to replace culverts and other crossing structures; it also identifies additional sources of information and assistance for municipalities that pursue such projects.

Project Background

Taunton stream continuity project

The Massachusetts River and Stream Continuity Project is a partnership among the University of Massachusetts and several other groups, which developed a method to measure culverts and focus efforts on restoring waterways statewide. This program has been so successful that it has grown into the North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative (NAACC), which works across 13 states from Maine to Virginia to improve aquatic connectivity throughout the region.

Mass Audubon staff and interns at our Oak Knoll Wildlife Sanctuary and from our Ecological Extension Service—along with partners including the Taunton River Watershed Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, and Save the Bay—measured over 500 culverts and other structures using the Project’s methods. The results are summarized in the 2017 report.

The Taunton River watershed is also the focus of several dam-removal projects, including the Carver Cotton Gin Mill Dam in East Bridgewater on the Satucket River. Once the dam is gone, fish such as alewives and shad will be able to swim 40 miles from the mouth of the Taunton River nearly to the headwaters. Plus, the river will be more resilient in the face of climate change impacts such as severe storms.

Ultimately, both wildlife and people will benefit when streams flow freely.

Get Involved

Related Presentations 

Check out the presentations from our stream continuity workshop in Norton:

Intro to Stream Continuity >

Prioritizing Biodiversity & Infrastructure Needs >

Stream Continuity Report Summary >

To learn more about this project and how you can get involved, check out the presentations and related educational materials available through Mass Audubon's Shaping the Future of Your Community program. You can browse presentations given by a host of different speakers and organizations, including the Taunton River Watershed Alliance; Southeastern Massachusetts Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD); Department of Ecological Restoration; and the Department of Environmental Protection. 

These organizations—along with many others—are part of the Resilient Taunton Watershed Network (RTWN). The RTWN works to promote the resiliency of the Taunton Watershed in the face of climate change and development, taking into consideration ecological outcomes as well as economic, social, and environmental justice issues.

We invite you to join us and our partners in working to protect and restore the Taunton watershed! 

For more information, please contact:

Project Support

The Massachusetts Environmental Trust and the Eaglemere Foundation provided critical support for this project.


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