Table of Contents

Fall River Open Space Plan

D. Growth And Development Patterns

i.) Patterns and Trends

The early growth of Fall River was concentrated primarily around four textile manufacturing centers. This industrial spine of the city originated around the falls of Quequechan where there was an early concentration of mills. The other development centers were in the Flint District, west of Cook Pond, and near the mouth of the Taunton River. Residential and commercial development radiated around these areas eventually merging into the existing pattern with the largest concentration of population between the Quequechan River and Cook Pond. More recently, as industrial operations have required expansive sites with highway access, industrial land use has shifted to the north part of the city near the Fall River Industrial Park and former airport.

Almost all of the residential development in Fall River is west of the Watuppa Ponds, where the majority of the city’s economic activity has occurred. Development is concentrated in approximately 30% of the area of the city, based largely on industrial growth patterns previously described. Since the City of Fall River owns most of the frontage on North Watuppa Pond and large portions of the east side of Fall River are forest reservations, residential development in east Fall River has been limited Nevertheless, significant tracts of privately-owned land exist around the Copicut Reservoir which have the potential for moderate scale resdential development. For the past thirty years, the major growth in housing has occurred in surrounding towns west and south of the city.

1987 Watuppa and Copicut Watershed Moratorium Study

By the mid 1980’s, growth and development pressure from the urbanized portion of the City had started to affect the eastern section, creating a concern among city officials about the impact of uncontrolled growth on the future of the City’s water supply. In response to this concern, the City declared on February 24, 1987, a building moratorium in the eastern 16 square mils area. The moratorium was not to exceed 2 years. At the time the district was zoned for R-30 and R-60 single family residential development and for heavy industrial development. The latter zone was created in response to the EG & G coal gasification proposal that was advanced during a period of high energy costs and the City was in great need of a major economic stimulus such as EG & G’s proposed facility.

The purpose of the 1987 Moratorium District Study can be summarized as follows:
  1. Determine areas not suitable for development
  2. Determine acres suitable for what types of development and with what types of development controls for residential, commercial, and industrial uses
  3. Recommend mitigation procedures for potential adverse development impacts on the reservoirs
  4. Prepare growth and development scenarios for 10, 25 and 50 year intervals utilizing optimal protection for the water supply system
  5. Determine the feasibility and costs of providing either new or extending existing public water and waste water systems in the study area
  6. Develop and provide an appropriate watershed protection plan and a model district potection plan and a model district protection ordinance.

The results of this study, completed in 1987, forecasted a significant potential for contamination of the city water supply if this watershed area was built out under the R-30, R-60 and Heavy Industrial land uses. In response, the City rezoned the eastern half of the City containing all of the watershed lands to R-80 (2 acre) residential and promulgated watershed protection regulations to control development.

ii.) Infrastructure

a.) Transportation Systems

Fall River is bisected by I-195 which links the city to Providence to the west and New Bedford and Cape Cod to the east. This interstate, constructed in 1969, carries vacationers to the coast and provides Fall River with an opportunity to capitalize on the tourist trade. The U.S.S. Massachusetts at Battleship Cove, the Marine Museum and the Heritage State Waterfront Park are part of the waterfront development.

State Route 24, which runs north-south through Fall River, ultimately connects with I-195 providing the most direct connection west to Providence and New York City and south to Newport. This route is particularly valuable to the new industrial development in the north part of the city. It also provides an attractive entrance to the City with an extended wooded roadside and areas of forested median.

The local street grid pattern radiates out from the original Quequechan River settlement with main arteries connecting the neighborhoods to the city center. There are close to 200 miles of streets within Fall River’s city limits, including an estimated 120 miles of paved roadways, 55 miles of unpaved roads, and nearly 5 miles of unimproved roads. A number of streets are in disrepair. Fifteen miles of boulevards and landscaped medians are maintained by thge city’s Park Department.

The MBTA has proposed an extension of the Commuter Rail Line into Fall River from Attleboro. As of the writing of this Plan, the future of this proposal is unclear with significant opposition to the route by residents living along the rail line in northern Bristol County. Commuter rail service has also been proposed for New Bedford.

b.) Water Systems

The Fall River municipal water supply system is managed by the Watuppa Water Board and serves about 100,000 people in Fall River and certain adjacent areas. The main source of potable water supply for the City of Fall Riover is the North Watuppa Pond. Recharge of that reservoir is artificially supplied by pumped water from the Copicut Reservoir. Recent research of available records indicate the following safe daily yields of the supply source:

North Watuppa Pond
7.5 MGD (Whitman & Howard Report 1958)
7.0 MGD (Southeastern Massachusetts Water District Commission 1953)
8.5 MGD (CDM/Resource Analysis 1981)
9.0 MGD (Mass. D E Q E 1982)
Copicut Reservoir
6.5 MGD projected (Whitman & Howard Report 1958)
6.5 MGD proposed (SE Massachusetts Water District Commission 1953)
6.0 MGD (CDM/Resource Analysis 1981)

The current estimate of total safe yield would range from 15.0 MGD (9.0+6.0) to 15.5 MGD (9.0+6.5). The City’s average daily usage for 1996 was 14.2 MGD. In the summer months, however, the City’s water usage ranges between 18-20 MGD thereby exceeding all estimates of safe yield.

In addition to these sources, the city owns South Watuppa Pond, which is suitable for industrial use or, with possibly further processing at the city’s water filtration plant, as a backup supply in emergency situations.

The Fall River municipal system is interconnected with Somerset by an underground pipeline. Until 1980, water was regularly pumped (up to 4 million gallons per day) to the New England Power Company in Somerset for cooling purposes. Presently, this interconnect is used only for emergency situations. Also, the Fall River municipal system supplies approximately 200,000 gallons per day to the North Tiverton Fire District, which serves about 7,000 residents.

East Fall River, which constitutes about 15 square miles of sparsely populated land, is not presently served by municipal sewer or water. This area does contain North Watuppa Pond and the Copicut Reservoir, the city’s two main sources of drinking water, as well as major recharge areas in the Cedar and Copicut Swamps and surrounding land.

The first water mains were installed in Fall River in 1873. There are approximately 205 miles of pipe in the water distribution system, most being cement and the remainder cast iron. Sizes of the mains range from 6” to 36” throughout the city. All water mains installed before 1937 are unlined cast iron pipe. Within the past few years, the city has persued a major renewal program to clean, re-line and place new gate valves and hydrants within the 157 miles of city water mains. This continuing project will ultimately improve the city’s water distribution system.

Fall River’s water supply is under increasing demand in supplying the needs of neighboring communities. Already, the city provides water to the surrounding towns of Westport, Freetown. Somerset, and Tiverton and Portsmouth, Rhode Island. The recent failure of a town well in Westport will require the extension of Fall River water service to that town. The Town of Dartmouth is currently discussing with the City the feasibility of connecting into water supplies controlled by the Watuppa Water Board.

Water Rights Legislation

The history and economic development of Fall River is dominated in many ways by the acquisition and mangement of water. There have been many Acts promulgated by the Legislature over the years relative to the water supply of Fall River. The Acts can be summarized as follows:

1826 - The Watuppa Reservoir Company was incorporated.

1871 - Fall River was authorized to take 1,5 million gallons daily from North Watuppa Pond for domestic purposes. The City was required to maintain a level of North Watuppa within 1” above that of the South Watuppa Pond. (The Watuppa Reservoir Company sued the city as a result and was awarded $70,000. in damages.

1886 - Fall River was authorized to take 1.5 million gallons daily from North Watuppa Pond. (The Reservoir Company again sued, but the State Supreme Court found for the city. Three years later, the Reservoir Company sought an injunction against the city on the grounds of prior rights to the waters of North Watuppa Pond by virtue of succession to a Crown Grant. The Supreme Court then reversed its previous decision and found for the plaintiff. The Agrreement of 1892 was entered into by the city and the Reservoir Company as a settlement of the controversy.)

1891 - The City of Fall River was authorized to take and hold by purchase the waterfront and vicinity of North Watuppa Pond, and tyo make regulations to preserve the purity of the water in the Pond.

1909 - The City was given the right to seize the wartershed of North Watuppa Pond by condemnation in order to protect the purity of the water supply.

1913 - For the purpose of further protecting the watershed of North Watuppa Pond, the city was authorized to divert the drainage of certain brooks in the North watershed into South Watuppa Pond. The Act also authorized the city, through the Reservoir Commission, to change from time to time the level of North Watuppa Pond.

1916 - For purposes of obtaining an additional source of water, the city was authorized to acquire. construct, and maintain a reservoir and waterworks on Mill Brook in the Town of Freetown.

1924 - This Act provided for the usage of the waters of the Lakeville Ponds by the cities of Fall River, Taunton, New Bedford and towns contiguous to these cities. The act allots 11.5 million gallons daily to Fall River, and authorizes construction and maintenance of waterworks and protection of the watershed of Long Pond.

1938 - Fall River was authorized to take land for water supply purposes and to construct and maintain waterworks in the towns of Dartmouth and Freetown and in all municipalities contiguous to Fall River, Westport, Dartmouth and Freetown. (The industrial supply at Noquochoke Lake was developed under authority of this Act. The Act also grants the authorization necessary for the construction of Copicut Reservoir.)

1945 - The Town of Dartmouth authorized to collect from Fall River in lieu of taxation, at an annual rate of $30 per $1,000, based on the sum expended for the Noquochoke pumping station.

Principal Water Supply and Goundwater Recharge Areas

North Watuppa Pond: principal source of drinking water in Fall River, supplemented by the Copicut reservoir and Noquochoke Lake (Dartmouth). Pond Swamp provides the primary groundwater recharge to the North Watuppa.

Copicut Reservoir: in service since 1972, it provides additional drinking water supply to North Watuppa Pond.

South Watuppa Pond: principal source of industrial water supply. Water from Davol and Sawdy Ponds flow into South Watuppa from the south; water from Stafford Pond flows into Sucker Brook and eventually into South Watuppa.

Cook Pond: primarily recreational; of possible use as an industrial water supplier should need ever arise.

Long Pond: in Lakeville. Supplements industrial and drinking water supply.

Sawdy Pond: in Westport. Augments the industrial water supply in South Watuppa Pond.

Noquochoke Lake: connected via pipeline beneath Route 6 to Watuppa Ponds.

Copicut Swamp: prime source of groundwater recharge for the Copicut Reservoir.

c.) Sewage Systems

The City of Fall River’s wastewater collection and transportation system consists of over 930,000 linear feet (176 miles) of sanitary and combined wastewater and stormwater sewers with over 7,000 manholes. This total does not include the miles of stormdrains and drain manholes which exist in the completely separated areas, or those areas where separation of portions of the combined sewer systems have been completed to relieve regional surcharging during storm events. The system serves a population of approximately 94,000 and over 40 industries.

The first element of the system completed by the 1870’s was built as a surface water flood relief in a combined sanitary and stormwater sewer. The idea of providing separate sanitary sewer lines was not actively persued in earnest in Fall River until the 1960’s. Approximately 75% of the sewered land area of the City remains served by combined sewers.

All areas slightly east and to the west of the City’s highest elevation along a ridge between 246 - 259 feet above sea level are easily served by gravity to the western shore of the Taunton River and the Mount Hope Bay to its intersection with the main sewer interceptor. Those areas in the Quequechan River Basin are also served by gravity along the river to the western shore. The remaining areas which lie east of the main north-south ridge and outside of the Quequechan Basin must be pumped to an area served by the gravity line.

The system is very complex in that it was constructed in a time when sewerage treatment was of little concern and methods of construction were very different than today. The emphasis at the time, and for many decades thereafter, was to reduce surface flooding and to remove residential and industrial wastewater from their origin.

The main components of the City sewer system are the main interceptors and truck sewers. The Main Interceptor consists of a 66-inch RC pipe which runs northerly from the Wastewater Treatment Plant along Mount Hope Bay to the Broadway Junction Chamber (BJC) at the intersection of Broadway and Columbia Street.

The first section of the interceptor handles 100% of the City’s dry weather flow at its origin at the Wastewater Treatment Plant influent chamber to approximately 70% of the City’s flow at the BJC. The north section of the Main Interceptor originates at the Central Street Pumping Station to it’s end at the beginning of the North End Intercepting Sewer, at the Alton Street CSO structure. Tributary to this interceptor are the North End intercepting sewer (and the Mothers Brook Interceptor) and the entire section of the City from the Quequechan River to the industrial park with an eastern boundary being the North-South ridge. Tributary to the Canal and Pocasset Street Trunk Sewers are the Quequechan Valley Interceptor (QVI) and the Hartwell/Rodman Interceptor. Tributary to the QVI are the South End Pumping Station, the Pleasant Street Trunk Sewer (PTS) and the Bedford Street Trunk Sewer, the President Avenue and East End Pumping Stations, which are tributary to the PTS.

The first large sewer pumping station was built in conjunction with the interceptor to the new Primary Wastewater Treatment Plant. There are two main pumping stations along the route of the Main Interceptor which runs along the Taunton River and Bay boundary of the City from the North End to the WWTP at the South End.

Wastewater Treatment Facility

The Fall River Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility was upgraded to provide secondary treatment in 1983. The original primary treatment facility was built in the late 1940’s. The plant is designed to provide treatment to an average daily wastewater flow of appoximately 31 MGD. The peak hydraulic capacity of the plant is approximately 50 MGD. Of this total, the facility was also designed to take up to 90,000 gallons of septage per day from neighboring communities such as Westport, Freetown, Tiverton, and others. The facility is managed by Metcalf and Eddy, Inc. of Wakefield, Massachusetts. Approximately 95% of Fall River’s population is currently sewered and served by this facility.

Wastewater flow to the Treatment Facility receives primary and secondary treatment as well as disinfection with chlorine prior to discharge to Mount Hope Bay. Solid residuals removed during treatment are dewatered by belt filter presses and then incinerated or land filled. The Treatment Facility is currently being improved as a component of the CSO Abatement Program.

Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO)

Other major system components consist of the large Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) and outfall which accepts combined household sewerage, industrial wastewater, and stormwater runoff from City streets above the capacity of the sanitary conduits and discharge into the Quequechan River, Taunton River and Mount Hope Bay.

The City’s Combined Sewer System contains 19 Combined Sewer Overflows that discharge directly to these water bodies when stormwater exceeds the dry-weather capacity of these systems. The City has completed the planning and design phase of an abatement program and is currently initiating the first phase of that remediation program.

Phase I involves significant improvements to the existing Wastewater Treatment Facility to increase the flow capacity of that facility. This will amount in fewer CSO discharges in light rain events, At the end of Phase I, the facility’s capacity will increase from 50 MGD to 75 MGD.

Phase II involves construction of a seven (7) mile, 20 foot diameter deep rock tunnel for transport and storage of the remaining wet weather flows. Additionally, the tunnel will act as a dry-weather interceptor for 80% of the City to relive the existing system. Finally, Phase 3 involves drainage improvements in the area between the tunnel and the existing main Interceptors.

iii.) Long Term Development Patterns

The land in the City of Fall River is divided by the North Watuppa Pond into two separate and distinct areas. Although the land area for both of these sections are approximately the same size, development is substantially different. More than 99% of the city's population and industry is situated west of the Watuppa Ponds and the east side is virtually undeveloped. These two areas must therefore be looked at separately in terms of future develpoment.

West of the Watuppa Ponds

The majority of the land in this section of the city is serviced by utilities (water, sewer,gas,etc.) and will continue to be attracrtive to commercial and residential development for the remaining parcels.

Commercial Development

Developable commercial and industrial land within the city is scarce and most of the available parcels are too small or for other reasons not suitable for industrial use. Of the usable parcels, the largest piece of land, consisting of approximately 150 acres, is located in the city's industrial park. This is a very marketable piece because of its access, location and size and it is anticipated that this will be developed in the near future. In addition to this area other notable sites include the land located on Martine Street known as the Kerr Mill Site, the Bleachery Property and various parcels located along the Taunton River.

Residential Development

Residential development in the city peaked in the 1980's with over 2500 residential permits issued. The majority of these permits were approved in the city's north end along North Main Street. This was one of the few undeveloped areas in the city and during the 1980's was attractive due to its zoning classification. The area has since been rezoned to Apartments and Single Family Residence District thereby limiting the number of residential permits in the future. Even with the new zoning this area continues to see the majority of residential development. Over the last five years more than 100 residential parcels have been approved by the Planning Board and new subdivisions are under review. A build out analysis of this area shows approximately 200 additional family homes could be built.

With the exception of the North Main Streeet area, residential development in the west end of the city is somewhat limited. The city has been averaging approximately 130 building permits a year and it is anticipated that this trend will continue.

East of the Watuppa Ponds

Development in the east end of the city prohibits industrial and commercial uses allowing only recreational and residential. Uses in this area are regulated by city zoning ordinances and Board of Health Regulations designed to protect the water supply. There are approximately 14,000 acres of land in this area, of which 2,300 acres of publicly owned lands is zoned Open Space and Recreation, 3,500 acres is zoned Water Resource District and the remaining area is zoned Single Family Residence District R-80. All of theses districts fall within the city's Watershed and Water Supply Protection Overlay District which was adopted to preserve water quality.

In addition to the protection afforded by zoning, the land is also regulated through ownership. The City of Fall River through the Watuppa Water Board and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through the Department of Environmental Management, control more than 6,300 acres of land in addition to the Copicut Reservoir and the North Watuppa Pond. Nevertheless, excluding the 3,125 acre Acushnet Sawmills Property, 1,360 acres of land is held by private landowners. Development of these parcels is most likely in the short term. The following is a breakdown of the ownership within this area of the city.

Public Land
City owned land (Watuppa Water Board) 4,100 acres
Copicut Reservoir (Watuppa Water Board) 530 acres
North Watuppa Pond (Watuppa Water Board) 2,500 acres
State owned land (Freetown State Forest) 2,250 acres
Other state owned land 500 acres
Private Land
Acushnet Saw Mills (Ch. 61 Forest Land) 3,125 acres
Other privately held parcels 1,360 acres
Total Land Area 14,365 acres

Future develpoment in this area will be limited to residential, water supply and recreational uses. The future residential development may be analyzed two ways. The first, which would exclude the land owned by Acushnet Saw Mills, would total 1,360 acres of privately held parcels. Approximately 30% of this land is not buildable due to location, wetlands or size. Another 240 acres of land have already been developed for single famnily use. Of the remaining land, there is one development approved and not constructed and two developments under construction at this time, for a total of 329 acres. These three developments are cluster developments and provide more than 150 acres of open space. This would leave approximately 400 acres of developable land which, under present zoning, would allow for a maximum of 200 additional dwelling units. At maximum build out there would be roughly 500 single family units.

If the Acushnet Saw Mills property does become available for residential development the number of dwellings will increase dramatically by 1,100 units for a total build out of 1,600 residential dwellings.