Allin's Cove - Common
Fence Point - Duck
Allin's Cove Marsh, Barrington
By Sandra Wyatt
|Allin's Cove Marsh
Allin's Cove is a tidal estuary just south of Bullocks Cove in West
Barrington, RI. Most of the cove is fringed in salt marsh, and it
is fed through a 6-foot wide channel that runs approximately 75
feet into the cove from the Providence River.
Bay Spring, a neighborhood of small, converted beach houses, lies on
the western side of the cove. Many of the people who live here are
second and third generation residents with memories of life on the
cove and the vibrant summer colony that thrived here for many years.
Byway Road, a short, dead end street with four houses on the inland
side, runs along the western shore of the cove. All of the houses
on the water side of the road were destroyed by the 1938 hurricane.
Two more houses located near the opening of the channel were destroyed
by Hurricane Carol in 1954. On the opposite, southeastern side of
the cove large houses, mostly on Alfred Drowne Road and Third Street,
have good sized lots that extend down to the salt marsh. Several
small cottages built to the south near the mouth of the cove were
destroyed by hurricanes.
I moved to Byway Road in January, 1993. During that year I noticed
that erosion was undermining the bank supporting the road. Erosion
of the salt marsh to the north was occurring also. Concerned about
this and wondering if my neighbors were as well, I invited several
long time residents to share their memories of the cove how it
used to be, what used to happen there and to find out what they
thought we ought to do, if anything. I learned a lot had happened
and that they were concerned.
The major event within memory was the filling in by the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers of 11 acres of tidal flats and salt marsh on
the southeast side of the cove with sludge dredged from a channel
to two marinas in Bullocks Cove during the winter of 1959.
Over the next year and a half I met several times on site with
the Town of Barrington Department of Public Works Director, Peter
DeAngeles; John Spostato and Tom Medieros, Coastal Resources Management
Council (CRMC) biologist and engineer; and Charlotte Sornborger,
Barrington Conservation Land Trust (BCLT) President to find a solution
to the erosion problem. BCLT owns much of the land surrounding the
cove and half of the filled wetland; the Town owns the other half.
They concluded that because the cove is Type 1 waters, no hardened
shoreline could be installed. They recommended plantings to secure
the bank, but nothing could survive there because it is too steep
and shaded. There seemed to be no way to stem the erosion.
During the summer of 1996, Mary Chace and I volunteered to map
the salt marsh for Save The Bay's statewide salt marsh mapping project.
Through this experience I learned not only first hand (and foot!)
about salt marshes, Allin's Cove in particular, but began a very
fruitful relationship with Save The Bay community outreach personnel
that continues today. I also began to meet helpful people in the
environmental community at large and continued to learn.
In the Fall of 1997, Sue Adamovich from the Department of Environmental
Management (DEM) was developing a system of prioritizing salt marsh
projects in Barrington. She formed the Barrington Salt Marsh Working
Group composed of Wenley Ferguson and Andy Lipsky from Save The
Bay; Helen Tjader, Barrington Conservation Commission (BCC) Chair;
Charlotte Sornborger; and other interested people who appeared irregularly.
I attended their meetings and there learned that the Army Corps
of Engineers was responsible for repairing damage to the environment
caused by their previous engineering projects. In other words, they
were responsible for providing most of the money, design, and engineering
to restore Allin's Cove salt marsh.
It took over a year to get their full attention. During that time
two different teams of Army Corps personnel assigned to the project
produced no action. In the winter of 1999, I appealed to Senators
Chafee and Reed. One phone call from Senator Chafee's office galvanized
the Corps. In July, a site visit was arranged by the Corps which
included local, state, and federal agencies. The third and current
Army Corps project manager, Barbara Blumeris, was assigned in August,
Throughout the years it took to get the project off the ground,
Helen, Charlotte, Wenley, and Andy continued to be helpful and supportive.
Through Tom Ardito at DEM, I attended the Coastal Habitat Restoration
Charette in January, 1999 and the Rhode Island Habitat Restoration
Team Meetings that grew from the charette. People from just about
every environmental agency in the state attended these meetings
(including the Army Corps) and with Tom's help, Allin's Cove remained
on the agenda.
Over the course of the four years preceding the final onset of the
restoration project, Save The Bay, DEM, CRMC, BCLT, BCC, the Town,
and I continued to share information and pursue a solution to the
erosion and a means to restoring the salt marsh. Though things weren't
progressing very fast, I was meeting many helpful people and learning
a lot. I felt it was time to get neighborhood input and support
for the project and held the first meeting of what would become
the Allin's Cove Neighborhood Coalition (ACNC) in June, 1998.
We met monthly during that year. Curiosity drew many people at
first, but then attendance fell off. I got together an informal
advisory group of about six people composed pretty much of whom
was available to meet on that night and we met about a week before
each general meeting. We decided to have a quarterly newsletter
alternate with quarterly meetings to cut down on the number of meetings,
yet get necessary information to the community. Though this scheme
may have decreased attendance even more, at least relevant information
was getting out there.
One would think there would be a lot of proprietary interest in
this project because people own property on the cove and many others
use the shores of the cove for recreation fishing, walking, sun
bathing and playing. Changing the configuration of the salt marsh
and the channel leading to it (to prevent erosion) will affect access,
view, and areas for recreation. But the most difficult thing has
been getting neighborhood input concerns, objections, ideas. This
may change at the next stage of the project.
After the big site visit in July things moved relatively quickly.
It was decided to proceed under an 1135 Restoration Plan which would
include both restoration of the salt marsh and erosion control along
the channel. Under an 1135 project, the Corps is responsible for
75 percent of the cost with a non-federal sponsor making up the
remaining 25 percent. The draft and cost estimate of a preliminary
plan was available by December. The estimated cost of the project
was $760,000 ($570,000 to be paid by the Corps and $190, 000 by
the non-federal sponsor).
It was originally felt that the Town of Barrington would be the
most appropriate sponsor but we knew that it would be extremely
difficult, if not impossible, to convince the Town to contribute
the total non-federal cost share. Then in March we received some
extraordinary luck. The CRMC had recently discontinued a project
in South County which had already been budgeted by the General Assembly.
The CRMC proposed transferring the funds to the Allin's Cove project
and becoming the non-federal sponsor. That money was just $18,000
short of the required amount and the Town of Barrington pledged
to provide that amount. It seemed to me to be touch and go but the
transfer of funds to our project was approved by the General Assembly
the following June and the CRMC, with Laura Ernst as representative,
became the lead non-federal sponsor.
The Corps held a kickoff meeting that included the Town, CRMC,
DEM, BCC, BCLT and ACNC in June at the Barrington DPW to discuss
priorities and schedule. Jon Boothroyd, University of Rhode Island
(URI) Coastal Geologist, has since joined the Corps-CRMC team. The
feasibility study including elevation, tidal, hydrological, soil,
and historical studies will be completed. A
report on these findings and draft design for the project will be
presented to the Community in Fall 2002. Construction is expected
to begin during the Fall/Winter 2003-2004.
After a slow and frustrating beginning, progress is now moving relatively
quickly with so far, only small setbacks or interruptions. There
is triangular communications between Barbara, Laura, and myself
that works pretty well. My focus has now shifted from agitating
to information sharing with much help from Laura keeping up with
the progress of the project, relaying concerns of the neighborhood
to the Corps and CRMC, and informing the community through meetings
and the newsletter.
But, guess what. It's not done when it's done. Maintenance will
be crucial. To that end the ACNC has hooked up with Save The Bay
and the Eastern R.I. Conservation District to apply for a DEM 319
grant to locate storm water pollution sites that empty into the
cove and to develop engineering design plans for the two priority
locations. This will involve in-kind contributions from the Town
and thus the community, and I will stay busy.
Meet as many people in habitat restoration you can, the more the
better. Call and write letters to your legislators, and other legislators
who might be helpful/useful. Don't be shy about speaking out and
asking for help from anyone. Go to meetings even though you don't
think you belong there and take LARGE demonstration material. People
won't notice or know about your concerns unless you do these things.
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