R.I. Trust Funds 9 Habitat Restoration Projects

By ecoRI News staff

The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) recently awarded funding for nine habitat restoration projects through its Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration Trust Fund.

Projects approved for funding include two anadromous fish passage restoration projects, a salt-marsh restoration project, a barrier-beach restoration project, two coastal upland restoration projects, and one equipment request for the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM).

Project locations span the entire state, from Napatree Point in Westerly to Quicksand Pond in Little Compton to Blackstone Park in Providence.

In its request for proposals, the CRMC put special emphasis this year on projects that would enhance the resiliency of Rhode Island’s coastal habitats to climate change and sea-level rise.

One of the funded projects, the Seapowet Point Restoration and Coastal Resilience Project, exemplifies these goals. The DEM’s Division of Fish & Wildlife will receive $30,759 to reconfigure public access, change land-management practices and enhance vegetation at a state-owned shoreline property in Tiverton. The changes will allow for the migration and future development of coastal wetlands as sea levels rise, and will enhance the existing shoreline habitat while still allowing for safe public access and recreation.

Save The Bay will receive $5,000 to improve anadromous fish passage to 86 acres of spawning area by removing obstructions from Mussachuck Creek in Barrington. The project will be carried out in partnership with the Rhode Island Country Club and the Division of Fish & Wildlife.

The Nature Conservancy will receive $9,300 to continue its work restoring native plant communities within the salt-marsh complex at Goosewing Beach in Little Compton. This is an ongoing project funded previously by CRMC and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and earlier work has been successful at managing invasive plants while allowing native plants to establish and thrive. This year’s award will go toward maintaining these gains through follow-up monitoring and management.

The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation will receive $16,000 to fund initial phases of a wading bird restoration project on Rose Island in Newport. The goal is to restore nesting populations of wading birds recently extirpated from the island. The early phases of the project will include planting of native trees to serve as a screen between nesting habitat areas and areas of heavier human activity, as well as the deployment and monitoring of bird decoys.

The Watch Hill Conservancy will receive $20,433 for restoration of barrier-beach plant communities on Napatree Point in Westerly. The project will expand upon restoration efforts previously funded by the CRMC and the URI Coastal Institute to control invasive plants and plant native barrier-beach species that will help improve habitat value and decrease the area of walking trails that allow for human disturbance of the dune system.

The Blackstone Parks Conservancy will receive $30,000 for the second phase of a restoration project previously funded by CRMC. The project will address severe erosion problems in a forested coastal upland in Blackstone Park in Providence through an extensive planting effort and trail-maintenance measures.

Save The Bay will receive $100,000 toward removal of the Shady Lea dam on the Mattatuxet River in North Kingstown. This project received funding previously from CRMC for design and a portion of the construction costs. Additional funding has been provided through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the dam owner.

Habitat restoration projects are funded through the CRMC trust fund are selected from recommendations by the fund’s Technical Advisory Committee. Program funds come from the state’s Oil Spill Prevention Administration and Response Act (OSPAR), established by the General Assembly following the 1996 North Cape oil spill. Each year, the committee, with approval of the CRMC, allocates $225,000 from the account for habitat restoration projects.

To date and including this year, the trust fund has awarded $2.7 million for 105 projects, which have leveraged more than $23 million in matching funds. In its 12 years, the fund has helped to restore more than 300 acres.