John H. Chafee Restoration Scheme Underway, Dredging Included

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy are working with partners to restore and strengthen salt-marsh habitat at the John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge.

The project will enhance wildlife habitat and enable the marsh to withstand the impacts of sea-level rise and coastal storm surge. In addition, it will improve habitat for marine fish by enhancing the growth of eel grass.

This month crews are expected to position a barge and support boats in the lower Narrow River and begin dredging within a designated area, north of Sprague Bridge and east of Sedge Island, reports ecoRI News.

Seven hundred cubic yards of dredged material will be pumped toward the nearby shore, where it will be used to create new salt-marsh habitat in areas that have been lost to erosion in recent years.

The foundation of the new marsh will be held in place by about 1,500 bags of recycled clam shells, which will be colonized by plants and invertebrate animals, according to project officials.

The work is scheduled to be completed by the end of the month.

This marsh-creation technique was piloted at the Chafee National Wildlife Refuge in the winter of 2016-17, where it successfully halted the rapid deterioration of marshes on Sedge Island.

The dredging contract was awarded to SumCo Eco-Contracting of Salem, Mass., through a competitive bidding process.

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