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:
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.
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.
Pawtuxet River Authority & Watershed Council
Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
R.I. Dept. of Environmental Management
R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council
The Rhode Island Foundation
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Save the Bay
R.I. Saltwater Anglers Association
Friends of the Pawtuxet
Pawtuxet Village Association
Rita L. Holahan, Pawtuxet River Authority,
Thomas Ardito, Narragansett Bay Estuary Program