Cove - Common
Fence Point - Duck Cove
Duck Cove Marsh, North Kingstown
By Gidget Loomis
|Upper Duck Cove Marsh
Courtesy: Natural Resources Conservation
I have lived on Duck Cove for the last eight years. Prior to that
I lived on a nearby peninsula. All my life I have lived on or near
the water and have been interested in many things saltwater oriented.
Secondary education and Biology is my background. I have always
believed in taking care of and respecting the Earth conservation,
recycling, and restoration.
Immediately upon moving here, it was obvious that Lower Duck Cove
was a healthy, thriving marsh community with lots of egrets, herons,
gulls, swans, ducks, etc. That first fall in came schools of bluefish.
People occasionally dug for shellfish. The Upper Cove was almost
dead by comparison. Few birds occupied the cove or the marsh. The
Upper Cove marsh was probably two-thirds Phragmites and one-third
Spartina. Several years later the pipe under the dividing
causeway broke in half. The water supply for the Upper Cove went
from inadequate to severely inadequate. The Upper Cove never fully
filled or emptied. Year by year we could see the invasion of the
Phragmites. Walking the marsh, there was an empty area of
odd-looking mud flats. Most of the mosquito ditches were severely
The Beginnings of a Project
Realizing that something had to be done, I began the process by
talking to my neighbors and several people on the opposite side
of the Cove. All were supportive of undertaking some sort of restoration.
They wanted their view back, and to decrease the fire hazard, as
well as restore it biologically. From looking at old charts of Narragansett
Bay, the causeway used to be just a peninsula, partly dividing the
Cove. All we could learn was that the causeway was completed some
time prior to the 1930s when Lone Tree Point was platted out of
the big farm that was this entire area. As a group, the Duck Cove
Bluffs Association and the Lone Tree Point Association decided to
tackle the project. In reality it was still me doing all the work.
I started by sitting down with Dave Reis, a biologist with the
Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC). I knew
enough that a CRMC permit would be required. He stated that we would
need to document tide data and do an elevations study of the marsh
and surrounding properties in order to model the site and then to
simulate restoration scenarios.
An old sailing friend is a partner in Applied Science Association (ASA)
of Narragansett. They do the current flow studies for oil spills and
other such events. They came up and indicated where I should put tide
stakes and how to install them. That done, I collected high and low
tide data for about three months. When I gave them the data, they
determined that they could not help me at all. Their computer programs
could not deal with zero water depths or mud flats. The University
of Rhode Island (URI) Cooperative Extension Service loaned me the
chemicals and taught me how to test salinities. I collected data from
several sites in varying conditions (high and low tides, after rainstorms,
|Installing tide stakes
At about the same time, Save The Bay announced their future plans
to begin restoration projects on the Bay. When I called, they said
they had not even hired anybody yet. Good luck to me. I basically
called anyone and everyone, following all leads and suggestions.
Eventually, Save The Bay hired Andy Lipsky as the habitat specialist.
He was a great help. Save The Bay spearheaded a statewide marsh
evaluation. I participated in that and learned a lot. Save The Bay
gave us a $500 mini-grant for the project. We received a $2,000
construction grant from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
Andy helped me write a RI Department of Environmental Management
Aquafund grant. We received $19,000 for planning, design, and hiring
a part time project manager. I had planned on hiring Kris Stuart
for that job, but there was one catch. The grant would not give
money to private individuals or groups. The Southern Rhode Island
Conservation District (SRICD) stepped in and offered to be our bank,
or to oversee the project, as they were taking on two smaller Aquafund
projects. Kris got the SRICD job as project manager for all three
From there the project took off. Kris was able to utilize the resources
and connections of the SRICD. The Natural Resources Conservation Service
(NRCS) came in to do the surveying. Additional tide studies were done,
transects were installed, and data was collected on water and soil
salinities. Al Gettman from the Department of Environmental Management
(DEM) Mosquito Abatement joined the project. In addition to replacing
the broken culvert, the marsh needed reditching. Both NRCS and Mosquito
Abatement had grant money available that would fit the project. NRCS
did the modeling of the existing data and then created several restoration
alternatives. A joint meeting of the neighborhoods selected a 4-foot
by 3-foot box culvert with drop boards. Kris later wrote and received
another Aquafund grant for the construction. A Wickford Middle School
teacher received a National Geographic grant for habitat studies.
Every week last spring she brought a group of sixth graders down to
collect tide water and soil salinity data. We are receiving a grant
from the RI legislature to fund the required post-construction monitoring.
We also applied for a Fish America grant but did not get it.
|Monitoring soil salinity
We started with the two neighborhood associations. Save the Bay
and USFWS joined us. Then the SRICD and NRCS. DEM Mosquito Abatement
and the town of North Kingston joined us later.
Save The Bay, SRICD, NRCS, and Al Gettman were all very helpful.
Early on we gave informational presentations to both the North Kingstown
Conservation Commission and Harbor Management Commission. Both were
supportive. The North Kingstown Planning Department also became
involved and was a valuable resource.
Initially, trying to get anywhere was a challenge. If we had not
received the Aquafund grant and hired a project manager within an
existing organization, we would still be years behind where we are
now. Having a manager with the expertise as well as the backing
of an organization like the SRICD made life much easier.
|Broken culvert restricting tidal flow
A requirement for a CRMC permit is that the applicant show ownership
of the property to be worked on. We could not. This was a sticky
situation. Historically, when land was platted out in town and lots
were sold, the remaining land (usually the roads) was left in limbo.
It was neither sold nor donated. In similar situations, legally
it became commonly owned by the neighborhood. The causeway not only
did not have any lot number, it was not officially part of either
plat on either side of the cove. Another wrench: since the area
of the culvert was originally open water, did it belong to the state
of RI, as public waters that had been filled? The town had made
emergency repairs to the culvert after the 1954 hurricane, using
Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) money. We could not document this
at the ACE. Several town employees remembered the work, but could
not find any documentation either. The town researched the land
and declared that they did not own the land or want to own the land.
But they would support the restoration project and would provide
some in-kind services. The town of North Kingstown became a necessary
third partner. CRMC was satisfied that there would be no ownership
Developing Support for Habitat Restoration
Talking to the existing neighborhood associations was an easy first
step. Getting the early support from CRMC staff gave the project
credibility. Presenting the project to the town commissions gave
us standing within the community. Save The Bay also was a great
help in getting the word out. Our causeway impoundment is a classic
marsh problem. Duck Cove became their poster child for marsh restoration.
It was easy to see healthy marsh on one side and degraded marsh
on the other.
The solution was simple for the public to understand. Duck Cove
and nearby Bissel's Cove were sites of several Save The Bay press
conferences and educational tours. For each event the press and
local legislators were invited. North Kingstown Representatives
Bensen and Carter added their support. Several feature articles
appeared in the local papers along with coverage of the above events.
Several times I have testified at House Finance Committee hearings
regarding the annually presented bill to create a Coastal Habitat
Restoration fund. Again, we are a classic example of a little local
project that could benefit from federal funding if we could come
up with matching money.
Attending statewide meetings, charrettes, etc. on coastal habitat restoration,
and presenting posters has spread word of our project among the
scientific community. I will talk to anybody about the project.
Several high school students have interviewed me for projects. We
take every opportunity to get the story into the press.
My individual work took one and a half years. Grant writing, waiting,
doing the surveying, data collection, and engineering took another
two and a half years. It took about six months to receive permits
from CRMC, DEM (both Water Quality and Fish and Wildlife), and ACE.
The application was also reviewed for historical significance.
Now we are waiting for the project to be put out to bid, estimated
to take another six months. Phase I of the ditching will occur in
April. Hopefully, construction of the culvert will take place within
the next six to nine months. Phase II of the ditching is scheduled
for next winter, and possibly perimeter ditching the following winter.
Monitoring and Follow-up
Pre-construction monitoring was essential. A baseline was needed
for comparison of post-construction data to show effectiveness of
both the culvert replacement and the ditching. Five transects (one
control in a neighboring marsh) were created, each with three soil
wells, and sites for plant identification, density, and height.
Several tide stakes were installed for full tide cycle analysis.
Photo sites were also established. Data was collected for a full
growing season. We are required to do post- construction monitoring
for five years. We have to submit annual reports to all the funding
and permitting agencies.
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This site was created through a partnership
Coastal Resources Management Council
Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
Save The Bay®