John H. Chafee Restoration Scheme Moves Ahead

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy are working with partners, including the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, to restore and strengthen saltmarsh habitat at John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge.

The project, aimed to enhance wildlife habitat and enable the marsh to withstand the impacts of sea-level rise and coastal storm surge, focuses on 30 acres of marsh on the eastern shore of the Narrow River estuary, opposite Pettaquamscutt Cove.

The work is being carried out under a $1.4 million cooperative agreement between The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, supported by federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery.

Over a dozen federal, state, and local organizations came together to develop the restoration plan. It will contribute to a larger recovery effort funded in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to restore coastal and inland areas in 14 states from Virginia to Southern Maine.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a tremendous partner, and we’re working closely together on habitat restoration and land protection in southern Rhode Island and all across the country,” said Scott Comings, associate state director for The Nature Conservancy.

“The Chafee Refuge provides outstanding habitat for saltmarsh sparrows, egrets, black ducks, and many other water birds. The saltmarshes on the refuge are irreplaceable natural resources, and the Conservancy is proud to help the Service make them more resilient.”

In late October, crews will position equipment on barges in the Narrow River and begin dredging within designated areas, from Middlebridge to Sedge Island, near Sprague Bridge. The dredged material will be placed on the existing saltmarsh and then spread across targeted areas, adding up to six inches of elevation to the marsh.

The work, known as thin-layer deposition, is expected to be completed by the end of December.

This innovative technique of elevating the marsh was executed last winter by the Service and the Conservancy to raise 11 acres of saltmarsh at the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Middletown, R.I., using sand that was trucked in rather than the dredged material.

The dredging contract was awarded to Coastline Consulting & Development of Branford, Conn.

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