Building a Stronger Coast
A Bridge to a More Resilient Future for Muddy Creek

Aerial view of Muddy Creek wetland restoration project. Credit: Town of Chatham

May 6, 2016 - For commuters and tourists driving Cape Cod’s Route 28 between Chatham and Harwich, construction of a new bridge was mostly just a traffic inconvenience. But, as the headline of a Cape Cod Times article says, the new bridge is actually an “environmental boon.”

The replacement of the bridge over Muddy Creek took five months and cost $6.5 million, of which $3.3 million came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hurricane Sandy funding through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. On Thursday, May 5, local officials and project partners celebrated the completion of this project with an event at Jackknife Beach.

Before work began on Muddy Creek, the project site was a tidally-restricted estuary with degraded tidal marshes. By restoring 55 acres of mixed estuarine and subtidal wetlands, the project will enhance coastal natural defenses against storm surge. And the restored tidal flow will help improve water quality, flushing out contaminants like nitrogen and improving habitat for shellfish and fish. It will also reduce the need for wastewater treatment, potentially saving the towns millions of dollars.

Perhaps the largest undertaking within the project efforts was the removal of twin undersized stone culverts from the creek and replacing them with a 94-foot span bridge and open channel.

Removing the culverts and re-opening the tidal channel means that spawning American eel and alewife can now return -- species that are a food source for many other of the Cape’s commercial fish species.  In addition, recreational access between the creek and bay will now be possible for non-motorized vessels.

Read about Muddy Creek in the news:

Cape Cod Times
Cape Cod online

Aerial view of Muddy Creek wetland restoration project.
Credit: Town of Chatham

Raising Up Marshes in the Race Against Sea-Level Rise

Taking marsh measurements at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Tom Sturm/USFWS

April 12, 2016 - The tidal marshes at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge are getting a lift – literally. An innovative effort to help protect marshes from rising seas is underway at Maidford River marshlands in Rhode Island. The work involves raising the elevation of the marsh by spraying extra layers of wet sand over top, adding anywhere from an inch to a foot of sand. After the sand has been added, staff will re-plant the area with marsh grasses, sometime in mid-May. (See video of the work.)

While salt marshes naturally move and grow, they have not been able to keep up with the rate of sea-level rise – high water is essentially drowning them out. The idea behind elevating the marsh is to hopefully give the habitat a chance to keep pace with sea-level rise, ensuring that tidal marshes persist into the future.

Salt marshes are home to a wide variety of plants and animals like the saltmarsh sparrow, which nests in tidal marshes. But salt marshes also provide incredible natural benefits to people by cleaning and filtering water and buffering coasts from wind and waves. The restoration of 11 acres at Maidford is part of a larger effort to restore 400 acres of tidal marshes along the coast of Rhode Island and improve coastal resiliency for storm protection.

Watch a video
Learn more about the project
Read a recent article in the Providence Journal

Taking marsh measurements at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge.
Credit: Tom Sturm/USFWS

Volunteers Help Restore Site of Former Pond Lily Dam

Volunteers helping plant native vegetation at Pond Lily.

April 12, 2016 - On Saturday April 9, more than 140 volunteers made quick work of planting native vegetation along the banks of the West River in New Haven, CT. With smiles on their faces, volunteers slid and sunk in the mud in order to plant cottonwood, box elder, red maple, pepperbush, dogwood, marsh grasses and more. The new plants will help stabilize the river banks, prevent erosion and restore the natural floodplain of the river.

The event was more than just hard work – it was also a celebration of the removal of the centuries-old Pond Lily dam. Completed in February, removal of the dam re-opens 2.6 miles of the West River, improving passage for fish and helping alleviate the risk of flooding to nearby residents and businesses. Native species including herring, eel and shad are expected to return to this spring’s spawning run beginning as early as the middle of this month.

Attendees of the event included Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Senator Richard Blumenthal, state Representative Pat Dillon, and representatives from Save the Sound, the New Haven Land Trust, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners on this project.

Read more about the planting event (news release)
Learn more about the Pond Lily project

Volunteers helping plant native vegetation at Pond Lily.
Credit: New Haven Land Trust

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Last updated: April 7, 2016