Building a Stronger Coast
Recovery, restoration & building coastal resilience
Work begins at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge - Sarah Lang/USFWS
Resilience shield

Protecting Property & Helping Coastal Wildlife

Enhancing Salt Marsh and Estuarine Function and Resiliency for Key Habitats on Impacted Wildlife Refuges

Location: Rhode Island to Southern Maine

Project type: Resilience

Project status: In progress

Funding awarded: $4,150,000


Work is underway to restore the salt marshes at at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge (RI) using an innovative technique called thin-layer deposition, which raises the elevation of the marshes.

Project Summary

This project will enhance natural coastal defenses to buffer effects of a changing climate for eight local communities, economies and wildlife that depend on healthy salt marsh ecosystems. These areas include more than 400 acres in key coastal areas of Rhode Island, 50 acres in coastal Massachusetts, 20 acres in New Hampshire and 50 acres in coastal Maine.

Conservation Goals

  • Mitigate the impacts of Hurricane Sandy on salt marshes at John H. Chafee and Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuges, including significant storm surge impacts such as flooding, vegetation death, and marsh break up
  • Restore natural hydrologic flow and function to 300 acres of key salt marsh habitat
  • Enhance and sustain marsh habitat and nesting productivity for federal Trust species
  • Reduce the distribution of non-native species
  • Prevent coastal erosion while mitigating nutrient content, pollution and volume of stormwater runoff

Project Benefits

  • Provides improved resilience to storm surge for coastal communities
  • Enhances marsh resiliency to sea level rise by improving drainage and increasing marsh elevations
  • Reduces the frequency of flooding onto local roads, which prevents access to the refuge visitor center and town beaches
  • Restores and improves marsh habitat

Project Partners

  • Towns and counties of Narragansett, Charlestown, Middletown (Washington and Newport Counties, RI); Newbury and Rowley (Essex County, MA); Kittery, Wells and Scarborough (York and Cumberland County, ME)
  • Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
  • Coastal Resource Management Council
  • U.S. Army Corps Engineers (ACOE)
  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
  • Narragansett Bay Estuarine Reserve
  • The Norman Bird Sanctuary
  • University of Rhode Island
  • Save the Bay
  • Audubon Society of Rhode Island
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • Ducks Unlimited

Additional Details

The key goals of this project are to restore and improve coastal marsh areas in Rhode Island to increase their strength against future storm events and long-term sea level rise, as well as preserve and improve habitat for fish, migratory birds and other near-shore marine species. Measures will include providing salt marsh shoreline protection, restoring hydrology, restoring maritime shrub lands adjacent to salt marshes and instituting a monitoring/adaptive management program to protect salt marsh habitat for declining migratory birds and habitats at risk. Additional projects will be implemented in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, such as an obsolete culvert replacement with a larger structure that improves tide water flow into an historic herring stream at Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

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Last updated: April 11, 2018