Fearing Brook

The Town of Amherst has received $276,000 in grant funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency towards improvements on Fearing Brook, a (mostly underground) stream that transports storm water and surface water runoff from about half of downtown Amherst in to the Fort River.

The improvement project on the Fearing Brook is designed to reconnect the Brook to its natural floodplains, an area of land currently being managed for conservation by the Town on Amherst.

Floodplains are areas bordering a river or brook that naturally provide space for retention of flood and rain water. When excess water from flooding events or heavy rains travels across a watershed, any number of contaminants can be picked up by the water and drain directly in to rivers and brooks. This non-point source pollution – contaminants that come from many places and collectively have a negative impact on the environment – can be reduced by restoring floodplains and their connections to waterways.

Healthy floodplains that are connected to rivers and brooks offer many benefits to help keep rivers healthy and water clean, such as:

  • Surface water runoff can be stored and filtered by soils and floodplain plants. This reduces the amount of nutrients, bacteria and sediment that are deposited in to the river.
  • Excess water flow is slowed down, decreasing the erosion and movement of soil and sediment in to the river.
  • Water stored in floodplains has a chance to infiltrate in to the ground, replacing water in underground aquifers and recharge groundwater.
  • Floodplains help maintain healthy riparian and freshwater habitats, which are necessary for wildlife and fish.

Excess water that is able to pool in floodplains drastically reduce flooding risks and damages downstream.

Fearing Brook flows into the Fort River just upstream of popular recreation spots on the river (Jump Bridge, Groff Park), ultimately flowing to the Connecticut River. By reconnecting the Fearing Brook to its natural floodplain, and ensuring the water flowing in to Fearing Brook is cleaner, this project will benefit the health of the Fort River and Connecticut River watersheds.

This grant project allows our local and regional officials to protect and enhance the health of our watershed and everything living in it from sources of non-point source water pollution.

To read more about the project, check out Scott Merzbach’s article from the Amherst Bulletin (Oct 31, 2019) here.