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The Ten Mile River Watershed is located in southeastern Massachusetts and a small portion of northeastern Rhode Island. The Ten Mile Watershed is the smallest of the 27 major watersheds in Massachusetts, and is bordered by the Blackstone River, Charles River, Taunton River, and Narragansett Bay watersheds. The Ten Mile River originates from its headwaters in the Town of Plainville, and meanders south across the Massachusetts and Rhode Island border, before ultimately emptying into the Seekonk and Providence Rivers of Narragansett Bay.
The Ten Mile River picks up flow from two major tributaries, the Seven Mile River and the Bungay River, located in Attleboro. The Bungay River, whose headwaters extend into Foxborough, is flanked by the best red maple swamp habitat in Massachusetts, and provides home to rare plant species and brook trout. The Seven Mile River provides a surface drinking water supply to the city of Attleboro through the reservoirs of Hoppin Hill, Manchester, Luthers and Orrs Pond.
The Ten Mile River supports a small trout fishery, which was originally fished by Native Americans. During the period of colonial settlement and industrialization, the river was used as a prime energy source for manufacturing industries. This later resulted in severe pollution in some parts of the river by the 1900's. Sewage treatment plants constructed after the Clean Water Act of 1972 have helped clean the river to some extent.
Attleboro and North Attleborough comprise the urban core of the watershed that, at the turn of the century, supported a diversified mix of industries led by jewelry plating and textiles. As a result of increasing levels of industrial use and residential development, the Ten Mile River was grossly polluted by the mid 1900s. The Ten Mile is much cleaner today thanks in part to the construction of two wastewater treatment plants and the introduction of pre-treatment of wastes by industries along the river. However, high concentrations of metals in the water column and sediments and nutrient enrichment (such as phosphorus and nitrogen) continue to impact the basin’s biological communities and diminish its full recreational potential. Excessive nutrients can result in accelerated growth of aquatic weeds and algae and low dissolved oxygen levels, which can impair recreational uses such as swimming and boating.
Water Quality and Management
The Ten Mile River Basin is listed as impaired in the 2004 303(d) report. TMDL development is currently being planned for several water bodies in the Ten Mile River Watershed.
The construction of dams on the river over the last 200 years has prevented fish passage to upstream spawning habitats. The Ten Mile River would support the largest herring and shad fishery in the Rhode Island portion of Narragansett Bay if fish passage at three dams, opening the 33 acre Omega Pond, 297 acres Turner Reservoir, and approximately 7.5 river miles. Some river herring return each year to the mouth of the river and are carried over the first dam into Omega Pond by local fisherman. The proposed restoration is the first phase of a three-phase plan to restore anadromous fish to the Ten Mile River, restoring significant habitat by providing fish passage at the first dam at Omega Pond. Fish passage will be create by the construction of a Denil fishway 60 feet long with a single turning pool. A level notch in the dam will facilitate downstream migration of juveniles. Restoring fish passage to the Ten Mile River would provide significant benefits to the freshwater and estuarine ecosystems and to the surrounding communities.