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Community Perspectives

Allin's Cove - Common Fence Point - Duck Cove

Allin's Cove Marsh, Barrington
By Sandra Wyatt

Allin's Cove Marsh
Allin's Cove Marsh
Courtesy: NOAA

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, 1999.

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.

Neighborhood Organization
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.

Some Thoughts
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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This site was created through a partnership of the:

Coastal Resources Management Council
Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
Save The Bay®