Friday, September 23, 2011

Restoration Celebration!

Pawtuxet River Restoration Commemoration
     On Friday, September 30th, the Pawutxet River Restoration Team will be cutting the ribbon to celebrate the restoration of the Pawtuxet River. In August, the Pawtuxet River Authority and its partners demolished the obsolete Pawtuxet Falls Dam, restoring natural flows to the river and opening passage for native migratory fish which have been absent from the river for 300 years!
      The agenda begins at 10 A.M. on Broad Street Bridge in Pawtuxet Village, overlooking the restored Falls. The Narragansett Indian Tribe will offer an invocation to the River and blessing for the return of the fish runs. A speaking program features state, federal and local environmental leaders and restoration partners, including Governor Lincoln Chaffee, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, EPA regional administrator Curt Spalding, RIDEM Director Janet Coit, and Jonathan Stone, executive director of Save The Bay. Finally, a group of canoeists and kayakers will paddle down the Pawtuxet River and into Narragansett Bay--a new "Blueways" water trail made possible by the dam removal.
     Following the events on the bridge, the Pawtuxet Restoration Team will host a reception at the Aspray Boat House in Pawtuxet Park--just south of the bridge--beginning at noon, with a light lunch provided.
     This event is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend. 

About the Restoration:                                                                                                                
Demolition began on the Warwick side where fish
 passage is targeted for best low-flow conditions.
     In August 2011, the waters of the Pawtuxet River rushed over the natural bedrock falls at the river's mouth, flowing freely into the salt water of Narragansett Bay for the first time in 300 years. The river restoration was the result of the largest ecological dam removal project yet undertaken in Rhode Island, led by the  Pawtuxet River Authority and Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, with funding and technical assistance from more than a dozen federal, state and private organizations (see list below).
     The purpose of the project is to improve the ecosystems of the Pawtuxet River watershed and Narragansett Bay by restoring populations of native migratory fish, such as river herring and American shad, which have been blocked from fully accessing their natural spawning habitat for hundreds of years. Herring and shad are important components of marine and freshwater ecosystems, providing abundant food for bluefish, striped bass, largemouth bass, herons, ospreys and many other predators-even harbor seals, which winter in the Bay. The dam removal will directly benefit Rhode Island's $200 million fishing industry, provide modest flood reduction for homes and businesses, improve water quality in the lower Pawtuxet River, and restore boating access between the river and the Bay.
Excavator putting an engineered steel plate into place.
     Throughout the month of August, contractors used excavators fitted with hydraulic hammers to break up the 150 foot concrete spillway of Pawtuxet Falls Dam, removing it from the river as rubble. The concrete dam was built in 1924, replacing an earlier timber dam. The project restores seven miles of free-flowing river habitat to one of the state's largest and most historic rivers, increasing its velocity and reducing its depth along its downstream reach by two to three feet. Biologists estimate that more than 100,000 herring and shad will return annually to spawn in the Pawtuxet now that the dam has been removed. To speed the river's recovery, RIDEM biologists will stock herring and shad into the river, while PRA's construction contractors will install native wetland plants and trees along newly exposed riverbanks.
     The Pawtuxet River restoration project was made possible through a collaboration of more than a dozen federal, state, local and private organizations which provided funding, technical assistance, and volunteer work. The construction and planting phases cost approximately $600,000, funded primarily by the USDA Natural Resources conservation Service under its Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program and R.I. Dept. of Environmental Management under the Narragansett Bay and Watershed Restoration Bond Fund.

Hunters Garage

For more information about the event, contact:                                          

Rita L. Holahan, Pawtuxet River Authority,  
(401) 935-0723
Thomas Ardito, Narragansett Bay Estuary Program  
(401) 575-6109 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Narragansett Bay Journal, Fall Issue #20

The Fall issue of the Narragansett Bay Journal was distributed to subscribers on September 7th. This issue focused on sustainability across a broad set of topics. With 16 articles, this is one of our largest issues yet! We have solicited articles from many organizations to give our readers a broad selection of important and timely issues we face in the Narragansett Bay Region.
The Narragansett Bay Journal welcomes contributions from our readers and we encourage folks to send their story ideas, letters, articles, photographs, drawings, poems, cartoons, etc to Lesley Lambert at
Below you will find a link to the complete issue as well as links to each individual article. Most of the material published in the Narragansett Bay Journal may be reprinted free of charge with permission. Please contact Lesley if you would like to reprint any of these articles.

Fall 2011, Complete Issue
Individual Articles
The Local Catch can be found at many of the Farmers Markets
throughout Rhode Island. To learn more read the article
The Changing Face of Agriculture and Smart Growth.

The next issue is set to come out December 7th, and will focus on solid waste. The issue will highlight the coastal clean-up that will take place on National Estuaries Day (September 24th), an update on the health of Narragansett Bay beaches, and the trash TMDL. Other articles include resource recovery, recycle-a-bike efforts, urban trash art, and reducing trash during the holidays. If you have any suggestions for articles, contributors, photographs, drawings, poems, etc, please send them to Lesley Lambert at!

Click here to sign up to receive the electronic edition of the Narragansett Bay Journal.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nature, Art and History at the Norman Bird Sanctuary

 Tucked away on Third Beach Road in Middletown, R.I. is a natural haven known as the Norman Bird Sanctuary (NBS).  In 1949 Mabel Norman Cerio willed approximately 235 acres of land, a portion of her original Paradise Farm in Middletown, Rhode Island, "for the propagation, preservation and protection of birds, and where birds and bird life may be observed, studied, taught and enjoyed by lovers of nature and by the public generally so interested in a spirit of humanity and mercy." Over the years, NBS has grown to include more than 325 acres of diverse habitats, and its mission remains true to Mabel Norman Cerio's original vision.
With seven miles of trails, a visitor’s center, beach education center, natural history museum, vegetable garden, chicken coup, and gift shop, the NBS offers entertainment and education to every visitor. With camp programs, field trips, garden workshops, harvest fairs and more, the Norman Bird Sanctuary is a leader in environmental education in Rhode Island.
Exploring the beach.
This summer NBS received a grant from The Rhode Island Foundation’s Newport County Fund to turn their original small garden plot into an educational, multi-garden area called The Good Gardens and to provide education programs on gardening to community organizations.  A partnership with the Martin Luther King Jr. Center (MLK) in Newport was established. This partnership has brought the children of the MLK Center out to the Sanctuary to learn about gardening and how the coastal environment played a role in Native American gardening.   Each week a new group of students from kindergarten through grade 6 take a field trip to NBS. The field trip begins with a tour around the touch tanks in the Third Beach Education Center where the NBS has collected many specimens of local fish as well as some tropical species that have traveled north on the Gulfstream and come into our estuary. Then they head over to Third Beach to explore the shore. After collecting the coolest things they could find, the children learn about what they found.
Listening to the sound of the ocean through a whelk shell.
The counselors also show the children how Native Americans used the natural resources. For example, the purple inside of a quahog shell was used as currency known as wampum. The Native Americans also used seaweed to fertilize their crops, shells to make gardening tools, and whelk egg casings as baby rattles.
After exploring the beach the camp returns to the Sanctuary to investigate the farm. They learn about vegetables, herbs and fruits, and how they are grown. NBS has used a Native American technique known as “three sisters” in their garden. The three sisters are corn, squash and beans. Corn is planted in the middle, beans are next so they can grow up the corn and squash are planted around the base of the corn.  The bean vines produce nitrogen in the soil—providing nutrients to all the plants.
Corn, squash and green beans grow very well
together and make up the three sisters.
After learning how the garden grows, the children got a taste of the ripe vegetables they found in the garden. Although not all children willingly eat vegetables, some found they actually enjoyed zucchini, tomatoes broccoli and cucumbers. In fact, some children began asking their parents to pick up zucchini and squash at the MLK pantry!
Aside from the hands-on outdoor experience this partnership offers to the children in Newport, it will also provide funding and technical assistance to install a garden center at the Martin Luther King Center.
This past year NBS also developed a partnership with Central Falls High School, where the students were given the opportunity to take field trips to the Sanctuary, learn about the plants, animals and natural history of the area. They brought their knowledge back to the city with them. After cleaning up their neighborhood park they planted trees and a peace garden with the students from other Central Falls schools. The students at Central Falls High School confidently spread their environmental literacy through a YouTube video.
But children’s education is not all they do at the Norman Bird Sanctuary. There are many events for adults as well. In September they will host a number of events for families and adults. Something of That Nature, an art show inspired by nature and the Norman Bird Sanctuary, will be held at the Third Beach Education Center September 9th through the 11th. The event is free and open to the public. As is their international coastal clean up on September 24th.
These mushrooms were found in New
Hampshire, but mushrooms thrive in
moist areas, so you are bound to see a
lot on the hike!
The Norman Bird Sanctuary will also host a Mushroom Walk in the Woods on Saturday the 17th for $10-members, $12-non-members. They also offer field trips for homeschooling, story-time in the garden, bird walks, and garden classes. Their annual fall Harvest Fair is scheduled for October 1st – 2nd.  To learn more about these special events go to
Whether you are an avid birder, a natural explorer, or just want a place to walk around in nature, the Norman Bird Sanctuary offers the perfect place for you to observe, learn and enjoy some of the natural habitats and resources our state has to offer.