Quantifying Legacy Sediment in the Upper Charles River Watershed, Massachusetts
Waltner, Mason. “Quantifying Legacy Sediment in the Upper Charles River Watershed, Massachusetts”, Boston College, 2016. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:108052.
While it has been shown that extensive sedimentation in historic millponds has greatly affected streams in the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont region (Walter and Merritts, 2008), much less is known about the phenomenon in the heavily dammed areas of post-glacial New England. Some research has found similar deposits behind breached historic dams in the Sheepscot River watershed in mid-coast Maine, but at a smaller scale than those seen in the Mid-Atlantic region (Strouse, 2013; Hopkins, 2014). I attempt to further explore millpond sedimentation in New England by quantifying the volume of millpond sediment, also called legacy sediment, in the 171.3 km² upper Charles River watershed in eastern Massachusetts. Twenty three milldams were located in the watershed on 1850s maps, giving a damming density of 0.177 dams/km². Each historic dam that had since breached, 14 in total, was visited in the field to identify possible legacy sediment deposits. Legacy sediments were identified by their meter or higher terraces made of fine sands and silt and verified by comparison to sedimentary patterns found in other legacy sediment deposits and radiocarbon dating of material both within the legacy sediment and in the underlying layer. Legacy sediment terraces with an area of 1.68*10⁴ m² and a total volume of 1.29 - 2.57*10⁴ m³ were found upstream of two adjacent breached historic dam sites on the Charles River in Medway, MA. Radiocarbon dates from a coarse sand and gravel lower at 1.8 m depth returned pre-settlement dates of 1281-1391 cal AD (two σ). These dams were immediately downstream of a large glacial feature with steep banks along the river. The lack of legacy sediment at other dam sites and the lack of sedimentation behind intact dams suggest that a low sediment supply to millponds prevented legacy sediment deposits from forming in most of the watershed.