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RI Coastal Resources Management Council

...to preserve, protect, develop, and restore coastal resources for all Rhode Islanders

CRMC funds 10 habitat restoration projects

WAKEFIELD, March 12, 2012 – The RI Coastal Resources Management Council has awarded funding for 10 habitat restoration projects through its RI Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration Trust Fund.

The Council approved the funding at the February 28 semi-monthly meeting in Providence.  Projects approved for funding include five fish passage restoration projects, three salt marsh restoration projects, and two shellfish restoration projects.

The Council awarded $50,000 to the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association for the third phase of the Upper Pawcatuck River fish passage restoration at Kenyon Mill Dam in Richmond and Charlestown. This project is the critical final step to restore fish passage to the Upper Pawcatuck, and the goal is to provide fish passage on the mainstem of the river to Worden Pond for a range of species, including Atlantic salmon, American shad, blueback herring, alewife, sea lamprey, American eel and brook trout. The project has received funding in previous years for different phases, and together, the work will restore access to nearly 1,300 acres of upstream spawning habitat that includes Rhode Island’s largest glacial freshwater pond.

The Council also awarded $50,000 to the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) for Fish Passage Improvements at the Main Street Dam and Fishway in South Kingstown. A fishway was constructed at the site in 1970, but has since been determined to be inadequate for passage by many native species of importance. The Saugatucket River is a high priority watershed for restoring diadromous fish passage, and up to 300 acres of spawning and rearing habitat for river herring are available upstream of the dam. This project includes removal of the lower section of the existing fishway and construction of a new section to allow easier fish passage. DEM also received $25,000 for Diadromous Fish Passage Improvements to the Palisades fishway in Peace Dale.

Friends of the Blackstone received $40,000 in funding for the Blackstone River Fish Passage project, which will restore diadromous fish passage across the first four dams on the lower Blackstone River, re-establishing fish runs that have been obstructed for more than 200 years.

The Council also approved $12,500 in funds toward a Salt Marsh Rapid Assessment project sponsored by Save The Bay. Save The Bay plans to conduct a rapid assessment of Rhode Island’s salt marshes during the late spring and summer of 2012 to assess the extent of die-off in the high marsh in response to sea level rise, higher tides and heat/drought; to assess the extent of die-off along the low marsh edge in response to herbivore grazing; and to identify any restoration or adaptation opportunities. A future goal would be to apply this approach on a broader geographic scale and to possibly work with federal and other nationwide groups for implementation. Save The Bay received an additional $4,000 for a related pilot project on Winnipaug Marsh in Westerly. The back barrier salt marsh along the southern side of the pond is showing signs of degredation due to sea level rise and man-made ditches constructed in the 1930s. Save The Bay will dig small creeks to enhance drainage to the area, and monitor the effects on the health of the marsh.

Save The Bay was also awarded $6,536 for its Caged Scallop Spawning Sanctuary project in Point Judith Pond in Narragansett. The group will establish a caged scallop spawner sanctuary for a third year in the pond, with the goal of protecting a broodstock using predator exclusion cages, and enhancing the recruitment to the pond. The long-term goal of the project is a self-sustaining bay scallop population in the pond.

RI DEM received $5,000 for the Ten Mile River Reservation Dam Assessment in Pawtucket. DEM will study the dam for fish passage alternatives, primarily removal of the dam and restoration of a free flowing river channel.

RI DEM was awarded $28,964 in partial funding for continuation of a shellfish restoration project in Ninigret Pond. This is a pilot project that will test the effect of enhancing substrate (material to which oyster seed must adhere in order to grow) in the pond on oyster recruitment and growth.

The Westerly Land Trust also received $3,000 in partial funding toward the Avondale Farm & Colonel Willie Cove Preserves Phragmites Control Project. The goal of the project is to remove existing Phragmites growth and restore tidal flow to the salt marsh area by redefining some of the old mosquito ditches. The project will be monitored and future Phragmites growth will be controlled so that native re-vegetation and restoration of the salt marsh habitat can occur.

Habitat restoration projects are funded through the RI Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration Trust Fund and are selected from recommendations by the RI Habitat Restoration Team, established by CRMC, Save The Bay and the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program in 1998. Members of the team serve as a technical advisory committee for the CRMC as required by law. Funds for the program 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 Trust Fund and CRMC receive $225,000 from the OSPAR account to fund habitat restoration projects in the state.

“This is the ninth year of funding, and the CRMC is pleased to have an unprecedented number of applications,” said CRMC Executive Director Grover Fugate. “The Trust Fund’s Technical Advisory Committee continues to utilize a competitive selection process to procure the best habitat restoration projects. Rhode Island’s coastal and estuarine habitats continue to be improved by our partners through this great program, and the state dollars provided continue to leverage millions more toward this important work.
To date and including this year, the Trust Fund has awarded $1.87 million for 77 projects, which have leveraged more than $18 million in matching funds.

 The full 2011-2012 Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration Trust Fund report will be available on CRMC’s web site at http://www.crmc.ri.gov/habitatrestoration.html.

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