Alternative 1. No Build
A No Build alternative was evaluated as an option. The fundamental question that needed to be addressed was whether implementing restoration actions at Little Mussachuck Creek would result in negatively impacting existing habitat conditions? It was recognized that restoring tidal flow to the northern portion of the marsh had the potential to negatively impact existing wildlife habitat functions.
Wildlife habitat impacts to major guilds were evaluated based on field observations and best professional judgement. A No Build alternative would be selected if restoring tidal hydrology significantly impacted existing habitat functions.
The team evaluated bird habitat. Coastal birds that have been observed at the site included: glossy ibis, osprey, snowy egret, great egret, great blue heron, yellow legs, least tern, green heron, and salt marsh sparrows. These species were expected to benefit from the proposed restoration.
Since closure of the northern inlet and the change to freshwater conditions, an increase in muskrat activity had been observed, especially in open water areas. Therefore, it was possible that one negative consequence of pursuing restoration might include effects on muskrat breeding, feeding, and lodge building. In the end, it was believed that restoration of tidal flow might reduce muskrat habitat but not eliminate it entirely due to adequate upstream freshwater habitats contiguous to Little Mussachuck Creek marsh.
The team also evaluated amphibian habitat. With the transformation of the northern marsh from salt water to fresh water, it was possible that amphibians may have colonized Little Mussachuck Creek marsh. Therefore, they may be adversely impacted by restoration efforts. Extensive time spent at the site by Save The Bay and Land Trust staff yielded no field observations of any amphibians in the areas projected to be impacted by restoration.
Environmental Scientist Sue Adamowicz from the Department of Environmental Management's (DEM) Narragansett Bay Estuary Program worked with the Town of Barrington’s Conservation Commission and Save The Bay to develop a Marsh Restoration Prioritization Matrix for identifying high priority salt marsh projects. Little Mussachuck Creek marsh obtained one of the highest priority rankings based on assessment of wetland functions and values. In this analysis, Little Mussachuck Creek ranked high due in part to the percieved threat to rare plant species. Recognizing that the ecological trajectory of Little Mussachuck Creek would result in eliminating trust species, a No Build alternative was not viewed as a feasible option.
Strong local support to remedy a percieved problem, scientific consensus on implementation strategies, and resident concern of the fire hazard potential of Phragmites (1994 Phragmites fire at the site) were all reasons to ultimately reject the No Build alternative.
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