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Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program

1999 Salt Marsh Restoration Press Release

Related pages:   Winsegansett Restoration Completion


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Dr. Joseph Costa

Phone: (508) 291-3625

May 25, 1999



Buzzards Bay NEP and Town of Fairhaven Receive Grants to Restore Salt Marsh Habitat

Fairhaven - The Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program and the Town of Fairhaven announced today that they have been awarded two grants to restore the salt marsh habitat within the Winsegansett Salt Marsh located in Fairhaven. The grants, totaling more than $32,000, were obtained from the Department of Environmental Protection ($22,500) though the "Nonpoint Source Pollution Program" and from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "5 Star Restoration Challenge Grants" program ($9,700). The Fairhaven Conservation Commission is overseeing the grants for the town.

The 30 acre Winsegansett Salt Marsh is located on the western shore of Sconticut Neck in Fairhaven. A series of tidal creeks connects the marsh with salt water from Buzzards Bay. The salt marsh has been divided into two sections by the long-ago construction of Winsegansett Avenue. Water flows between the upper and lower portions of the marsh through an 18-inch pipe under Winsegansett Avenue. The upper marsh has been further divided by privately-owned footpaths crossing through the marsh. Water flows under each footpath through 10-inch diameter pipes.

As a result of these restrictions, the amount of tidal water reaching the upper marsh has been reduced, lowering the salinity and tidal flushing of the marsh. According to Dr. Joe Costa, Director of the Buzzards Bay Project, "in these situations, the normal salt marsh vegetation is replaced by a nuisance invasive plant species called common reed, known scientifically as 'Phragmites.' This is the large reed you see increasingly along many of our highways. This plant species has very limited value as habitat for wildlife and it chokes out many native plants." Costa also noted that summertime fires are sometimes a problem in large stands of common reed.

The goal of the Winsegansett Salt Marsh project is to restore the salt marsh habitat in the upper marsh by increasing tidal flow. The Department of Environmental Protection grant will allow the town to replace the culvert under Winsegansett Avenue with a larger box culvert. Through the 5-Star grant and the generosity of the private landowners, larger culverts will also be installed under the footpaths. The Fairhaven Department of Public Works will be performing the work on Winsegansett Avenue and providing the new pipes for under the footpaths. According to Conservation Commission Chairman Marinus Vander Pol, Jr. "we are pleased to be working with the Board of Public Works and the Buzzards Bay NEP to restore this salt marsh."

As the tidal exchange between the upper marsh and Buzzards Bay improves, the increase in salinity is expected to cause the common reed to die off and be replaced by native salt meadow grasses, restoring the Winsegansett Salt Marsh into a more healthy and productive coastal wetland.