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CRMC funds five habitat restoration projects
March 8, 2022, WAKEFIELD — The R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) has awarded funding for five habitat restoration projects in the 19th year of its RI Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration Trust Fund (CEHRTF).
The Council heard recommendations for funding at the March 8th semi-monthly virtual meeting from the Fund’s Technical Advisory Committee, which is co-chaired by CRMC and the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Projects approved by the Council for funding this year include a dam removal assessment, streambank stabilization on the Woonasquatucket River, salt marsh restoration, habitat restoration and invasive species management, and fish passage improvement on the Saugatucket River. As with the previous years, in its request for proposals the CRMC put special emphasis on projects that would enhance the resiliency of Rhode Island’s coastal habitats to climate change and sea level rise.
The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island and its partners received $50,000 in Trust Fund monies for improving fish passage on the Saugatucket River in South Kingstown. Along with the US Fish & Wildlife Service Fish Passage Engineering Group – which surveyed the Palisades Mill Fish Ladder – TNC plans to make modifications to the ladder to improve diadromous fish access to 300 acres of spawning and rearing habitat. Modifications will include revising and installing a new baffle system (48 new wooden baffles) to create a slope and installing a steep pass at the fishway entrance to hydraulically connect the water within the channel entrance to the tail water. This work has received funds from the CEHRTF previously in 2010, 2012, and 2018.
The Trust Fund awarded $50,000 to Ten Mike River Watershed Council and its partners Save The Bay and RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to conduct additional assessments of the Ten Mile River Reservation Dam in Pawtucket, for fish passage alternatives, primarily removal of the dam and restoration of a free-flowing river channel. Fuss and O’Neill will conduct the assessments, which will include sediment characterization and hydrologic and hydraulic modeling. This effort received funds in last year’s round of CEHRTF awards. The state-owned dam was built in 1926 and obstructs anadromous fish passage to upstream spawning habitat in the Ten Mike River and Seven Mile River. The dam creates a shallow 21-acre impoundment, and the impoundment suffers from large algal blooms in the summer and is host to non-native aquatic plants. The long-term goals of the project are to restore connectivity via restoring a free-flowing river, provide upstream fish passage to both rivers, improve flood resiliency by reducing upstream flood elevations and downstream flood impacts (should the dam fail), and improve water and habitat quality where there currently exists an impoundment.
Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC) and its partners received $50,000 for streambank stabilization work, buffer restoration, and re-vegetation of the riverbank at San Souci Drive in Providence. The WRWC plans to restore and stabilize the streambank along the road and United Way of RI property, using a mixture of hard (riprap) and soft (geogrid, coir fiber matting and/or plantable structures planted with native, wildlife-friendly vegetation) bank stabilization methods. The goal is to sustainably restore and stabilize the streambank. Short and long-term goals include creating a flood and weather-resistant stable bank that improves habitat, and over time, preventing further bank slumping and degradation of the recently installed multi-use trail at the top of the bank. The CEHRTF awarded funding toward related work on the Woonasquatucket River in 2019.
Save The Bay, the Town of Tiverton, Warren Land Conservation Trust, Town of Narragansett, and other partners received $50,000 for salt marsh restoration at Fogland Beach and Haile Farm Preserve on the Palmer River in Tiverton, and Canonchet Marsh and Narrow River in Narragansett. Save The Bay plans to restore tidal hydrology in these areas through the use/construction of runnels, or narrow dug channels on the marsh surface that drain water from the marsh. Accelerated sea level rise and historic human impacts from agricultural and mosquito control methods are impacting marshes’ ability to keep up with sea level rise. Over the last 11 years, Save The Bay and partners have conducted 16 small-scale marsh restoration and adaptation projects all over the state to address rapidly changing conditions in our salt marshes using these techniques. The three marshes targeted for this round of funds have varying levels of degradation including impounded water, vegetation die-off, and degradation of marsh substrate.
Norman Bird Sanctuary and its partners were awarded $25,000 from the Trust Fund for habitat restoration at the Sanctuary in Middletown, to include removal of invasive species and native plantings. The project includes two restoration sites on Norman Bird Sanctuary’s preserved 300-plus-acre property: Third Beach Road and Hanging Rocks Road. The Trust Fund has awarded monies to the sanctuary previously for several small dune planting projects at the Sanctuary’s property at Third Beach, and this installment is designed to build on that work.
The Third Beach site encompasses the far southeastern portion of the Sanctuary’s property along the road where the Maidford River intersects the road and culvert at Third Beach. It will focus on areas where Japanese knotweed, oriental bittersweet, and Porcelain berry are prevalent. A new population of phragmites has also begun to compete with existing switchgrass on the site. The five-acre portion of the Sanctuary’s property at Hanging Rocks Road includes a wetlands complex along the road where the tributary from Red Maple Pond intersects with the road. One portion of this consists of a shallow emergent marsh and a red maple swamp where a large amount of reed canary grass has begun to spread. Another portion of the site consists of two palustrine (inland wetlands that contain ocean-based salts) wetlands that are being heavily invaded by watercress and other invasives such as European privet. The last portion of this site includes the stream corridor from Hanging Rocks Road up to the Maple Pond Dam. This watershed has a drainage area equal to 100 acres of the Sanctuary’s 300+ acres. The invasive species will be removed, and native plants will be planted to re-vegetate the areas.
Habitat restoration projects funded through the RI Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration Trust Fund are recommended by the fund’s Technical Advisory Committee and approved by the RI Coastal Resources Management Council. Program funds come from the state’s Oil Spill Prevention Administration and Response Act (OSPAR), established by the legislature following the 1996 North Cape oil spill. Each year, the CEHRTF advisory committee, with approval of the CRMC allocates $225,000 from the OSPAR account to habitat restoration projects throughout the state.
“The Rhode Island Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration Trust Fund has been incredibly successful in its nearly 20 years in providing an avenue for worthwhile habitat restoration, resilience, and habitat enhancement efforts, and for leveraging valuable funds that otherwise might not have been devoted to these kinds of projects,” said CRMC Executive Director Jeff Willis. “Rhode Island has greatly benefitted from the OSPAR funding made available through the Trust Fund, and the agencies and organizations involved in the process have worked well together towards this common goal.”
To date and including this year, the Trust Fund has awarded $4.35 million for 155 projects, which have leveraged more than $31 million in matching funds. In its 19 years, the Trust Fund has helped to restore over 300 acres of coastal and estuarine habitat. The full report is on the CRMC web site at http://www.crmc.ri.gov/habitatrestoration.html.