Improvement Plan Needed for Hundred Acre Cove

By ecoRI News staff

Hundred Acre Cove, bordered by Barrington and East Providence, R.I., and Seekonk, Mass., has been closed to shellfishing since the 1990s because of bacterial pollution, but Save The Bay and partners are working to solve this longtime problem.

With the support of a $132,000 grant from Restore America’s Estuaries and the Environmental Protection Agency, via the Southeast New England Watershed Grant Program, and through partnerships with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, the city of East Providence, the town of Barrington, and the town of Seekonk, Save The Bay is leading the development of a comprehensive water quality restoration plan for Hundred Acre Cove.

The project was presented last month in California at the 9th National Summit on Coastal and Estuarine Restoration and Management.

“We’ve seen significant improvements in the overall water quality of Narragansett Bay, particularly over the past two decades,” said Kate McPherson, Save The Bay’s riverkeeper. “But just as important are the streams, rivers, and coves that feed the bay and serve as valuable spawning grounds and habitat for plants and animals, as well as recreational and commercial opportunities that draw people to the area.”

During the next three years, Save The Bay and its partners will review existing data, conduct a conditions assessment, and develop and implement an action plan. The plan will include a prioritized set of restoration, communication, policy, and regulatory actions that, when taken together, should improve the water quality in Hundred Acre Cove, according to Save The Bay.

Since 1990, Barrington’s population has grown along the eastern side of Hundred Acre Cove. Correlatively, the cove has also seen an increase in recreational use, from rowing to recreational fishing. Unfortunately, users of the cove are often unaware of its chronic water pollution problems.

While numerous federal, state, and local entities have monitored Hundred Acre Cove, gathered information on pollution sources, and identified potential corrective actions, actions to date haven’t led to meaningful improvement. Studies and reports provide important data and recommendations, but to date solutions have been difficult to achieve for numerous reasons.

“For Hundred Acre Cove, there are many identified and unidentified sources of pollution spread between two states and three municipalities. Staff capacity and funding are always issues,” said Mike Jarbeau, Save The Bay’s baykeeper. “This project will allow Save The Bay staff to take a holistic look at the watershed and provide communities with actionable, prioritized solutions and assist with implementation.”

Hundred Acre Cove is a square-mile waterbody within the bi-state Barrington River-Warren River sub-watershed and is a critical estuarine habitat for fish, shellfish, crustaceans, birds, and other animals.

The Barrington River is fed by the Runnins River, which marks the Rhode Island-Massachusetts line as it meanders north along the Wampanoag Trail, behind the highly developed U.S. Route 6 commercial district, and under Interstate 195 at U.S. Route 44.

The Runnins River has historically held some of the highest bacteria levels in the watershed and is of particular interest in the project.