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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Senator Jack Reed comes through with federal funds for dredging and restoration for Ninigret Pond, plus Quonochontaug and Winnapaug Ponds

Good thing the town didn’t sell its beach right-of-way

The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) has been awarded $3.25 million in funding from the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) for habitat restoration and coastal resilience work in the state’s salt ponds.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)  announced the funding, which will also include $870,000 toward the Shoreline Change (Beach) Special Area Management Plan work, $400,000 toward pilot projects in Newport, North Kingstown and Warwick studying coastal community resilience planning, and six other related projects throughout the state.

Our coastal salt ponds, particularly those in Charlestown and Westerly, suffered significant damage from Superstorm Sandy,” Reed said in a statement. “This federal funding will help protect our communities and restore important habitat. I commend CRMC and their partners for spearheading this project, which will expand on existing work to assess marsh conditions and restore habitat statewide while improving the ecological, economic, and social value of natural resources for the area.
Reed, the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, helped secure $100 million for the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program as part of the $829.2 million he included for the DOI in the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013.

According to Reed’s office, the DOI received more than 375 proposals for the grants, and will award 54 projects nationwide, including the Rhode Island projects.

The CRMC plans to restore 30 acres of degraded salt marsh habitat within Ninigret Pond salt marsh barrier complex through the beneficial reuse of dredged materials, and will also examine opportunities for additional, similar projects in Quonochontaug and Winnapaug Ponds. That work will be done with $3.25 million from this new funding.

Dredged materials will be placed and dispersed on the marsh surface to increase the marsh’s elevation, and the restored areas will be replanted, enhancing marsh vegetation and increasing the lifespan of the marsh complex to future coastal storms and increased rates of sea level rise. The higher elevation will also allow the marsh to continue working as a buffer to storm surge and storage area for flooding.
The restoration work in the salt pond will preserve and extend the marsh’s natural functions and values – open space, water quality improvement, nursery habitat for fisheries and breeding and foraging habitat for many bird species – and support Rhode Island’s tourism, recreation, fishing and boating industries,” said Anne Maxwell Livingston, chair of the CRMC. “The Council is thrilled with this announcement, and thanks the hard work of CRMC staffer Caitlin Chaffee and, especially, Senator Jack Reed, for the tireless work to secure this important funding.”
One of the main reasons the CCA Party majority that controlled the Charlestown Town Council recently rejected a proposal from a group of mostly non-resident beach property owners to buy a town-owned beach right of way is to make it easier to do dredging projects like this. If that deal had gone through, it would have made dredging of the pond more difficult and costly.

Planning and assessment for additional projects in the other two ponds will also be completed with this funding award, and methods and techniques piloted in the Ninigret project that will be shared with state and regional partners for future restoration efforts. Work in being done in partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the towns of Charlestown and Westerly, the Salt Ponds Coalition, Save The Bay and others.
The project will improve the resiliency of the region and help it withstand and adapt to the effects of climate change,” Reed said. “Further, the project will help develop best practices for future marsh restoration projects in Rhode Island and along the Eastern Seaboard.”
The Narragansett Indian Tribe is also slated to receive $180,000 from this funding to assess forest health, natural resources and water resources on tribal land. It is not known at this time whether the town of Charlestown will direct Attorney Joe Larisa, Charlestown's Special Council to fight all things Narragansett to try to block the funding to the tribe.

The CRMC also announced additional funding from the same award for its Shoreline Change SAMP, which it is developing with the University of Rhode Island.