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Friday, February 3, 2012

Ninigret dredging underway

Long overdue project should aid the health of the salt pond
By Will Collette

On a beautiful though brisk and windy morning, Charlestown’s two state Representatives gathered with town officials and representatives of the coalition of environmental groups (the Salt Pond Coalition and Save the Bay) to mark the beginning of a $1+ million project to pull around 200,000 cubic yards of sediment from the channels that allow sea water to flow into and replenish Ninigret Pond.

State Reps Larry Valencia and Donna Walsh with
Ocean House Marina owner Rob Lyons
The dredged material is mostly sand, consistent with what we already have at Town Beach. Contractor Southwind Construction has barges that are floating on the surface with huge suction hoses that are drawing up the sediment and sending it down giant pipes to replenish sections of Charlestown Town Beach. This process not only improves the health of Ninigret Pond but also repairs beach erosion by recycling native material,

This project was made possible in the last General Assembly session when Rep. Donna Walsh, working with Rep. Larry Valencia, fought to keep $729,100 in state funding for the project from being cut during the last year’s frenzy of budget-cutting.

The Town of Charlestown had committed $300,000 as well. When Town Council President (and CCA leader) Tom Gentz announced the commitment of the town’s $300,000 last April, he said the money would support seasonal home values; homes south of Route 1, in close proximity to the pond, produce 65 percent of Charlestown tax revenues.” 

While Gentz sees this project as looking out for Charlestown’s elite, the project also will boost shell-fishing and fishing, as well as tourism that other Charlestown residents count on.

Dredging and pumping will take place in earnest until the end of March when it will stop so as not to interfere with spawning and the other necessary natural activities within the Pond’s ecosystem.