Nature & ScienceRhode Island Beaches

Ninigret Pond Marsh Restoration

Ninigret Pond Marsh Restoration Video

Salt Ponds Coalition was a lead partner in the Ninigret Pond Salt Marsh Restoration that took place in Charlestown with project partners that included the Towns of Westerly and Charlestown, Coastal Resources Management Services, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. This project was made possible by a Hurricane Sandy Resiliency Grant.

What is a Salt Pond Marsh Restoration?

In December 2016, crews dredged the Charlestown Breachway and reused that material on the adjacent Ninigret salt marsh to increase its elevation to make it more resilient to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.

The purpose of these actions are:

  1. Preserve the functions of the existing salt marsh and make it more resilient to future sea level rise.
  2. Slow the entry of sediment into the pond and to improve navigation by creating a deeper breachway channel.

What Do They Do With All the Dredged Sand?

Coastal Resources Management contracted Brennan, a marine construction company that specializes in waterway remediation and habitat restoration to dredge two sedimentation basins within the Charlestown breachway channel. Most of the material that was dredged was then discharged from pipes onto the marsh to the west of the channel. The discharged material was spread and graded to elevations that are appropriate for salt marsh plants. Some of the material dredged from the basins was also discharged along the shore, in the intertidal area to the east of the Charlestown breachway.

What are the Benefits?

Preserving the health of the marsh, and combatting sea level rise were all outcomes of this effort. And, it also helped to re-nourish the beach along the Charlestown, RI shoreline. When you take your beach walks this summer, take a look at that area of Charlestown Beach to see if you notice a difference. Most people don’t know that salt marsh’s can drown, that’s why we published a video and article here at Green Hill Rocks in the Fall showing the beginning stages of this project. Watch it here again here! 

More on Rhode Island Sea Level Rise

Excerpt from CRM Website:  Sea levels in Rhode Island have been rising at an increasing rate, particularly over the last 30 years. Observations in many of Rhode Island’s salt marshes—including the marshes in Ninigret Pond—confirm what models are telling Scientists: that salt marshes are beginning to drown in place, converting to mud flats or open water.

Salt marshes perform many important functions, such as acting as a natural buffer to storms and providing protection for communities along our shorelines. Within the Charlestown breachway in Ninigret Pond, sand has been accumulating as it is swept in by shoreline currents. As it enters the pond it covers eelgrass beds—an important habitat—and makes navigation difficult for the many boaters who enjoy the pond.

To see what the marsh looks like right now, watch the video above produced by the Salt Ponds Coalition! You will see that the marsh today looks much like a mud flat. Over time, the salt marsh grasses will return. An army of Save the Bay staff with support from the New England Wildflower Society and volunteers that included Salt Ponds Coalition members worked this Spring and early summer to plant the grasses in order to recolonize and the cover the mud flat with new plant material.

This project promises to result in healthy salt marsh grasses that will play a key role in restoring the marsh. And, the Charlestown Breachway channel will be deepened significantly to create basins where sediment can accumulate over time! By all accounts, The Ninigret Pond Marsh Restoration was a successful partnership between federal, state and local governments working together to preserve our natural resources.

Previous post

Wampum

Next post

Sanjiv Chopra

The Author

Ann Manion

Ann Manion

I discovered Green Hill, RI seeking simplicity. Our family rented a classic Rhode Island cottage on the hill for nearly 10 years. In 2015 we realized our dream to call a place here our own. I started this blog to share stories about the special people and places around Green Hill & to create an online resource of information for residents and guests of our special beach community.