CHARLESTOWN - The maintenance dredging project that turned the shores of Ninigret Pond near the mouth of the Charlestown Breachway into a bustling hub of giant tubes and loud machinery for a few late winter weeks is finished. Not only was the project completed within this season’s prime dredging window, it was completed under budget.
The actual dredging was completed on Feb. 25, but with the breaking down and packing up of equipment, the crews did not leave the area until last week.
The total available funds for the project totaled $1.29 million, a sum that was compiled from both state and town money. However, the work was completed at just under $952,000, according to Rhode Island Coastal Resource Management (CRMC) Spokesperson Laura Dwyer.
“Overall, it was a quick project,” said Dwyer. “It was pretty cut and dry, and the workers didn’t encounter any problems along the way.”
The end of this season’s dredging window was March 15.
“It was just a case of good weather, a good contractor and favorable conditions,” Dwyer continued. “The crews were able to work 24/7 because the noise and lights didn’t bother anyone.” Dwyer referred to the lower populations common with the coastal area in the winter months.
The dredging was done as part of the South Coast Restoration Project, an undertaking designed to adequately maintain sedimentation basins, which are designed to trap sand as it surges through breachways. The sedimentation basin in Ninigret Pond at the breachway has collected sand at an accelerated rate in recent years, which has suffocated the eelgrass, and caused CRMC to intervene.
Eelgrass helps sustain fertile fish and shellfish breeding areas, which are important to the ecosystem, but the shifting sands at the Charlestown Breachway have spelled danger for the eelgrass in Ninigret Pond.
“Eelgrass is a native aquatic plant growing in a lot of ponds and tidal areas,” Dwyer said when the dredging first began. “There is a lot of ecological value in it.”
The workers at the breach-way were able to perform the maintenance on both the sedimentation basin and the relief channel, which Dwyer said CRMC had hoped to do, but was dependent on both time and money.
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