West River Tidal Marsh Restoration Project Celebrated

This past weekend, Save the Sound celebrated the completion of its West River Tidal Marsh Restoration Project in New Haven with a large group of elected officials and local advocates. Present at the event were Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Conservation and Management for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Eric Schwaab, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Dan Esty, State Senator Toni Harp (D-New Haven), State Representatives Toni Walker (D-New Haven) and Patricia Dillon (D-New Haven), New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, and the Friends of Edgewood Park.

Elected officials and advocates gather for the West River Tidal Marsh Restoration Project Press Conference

Although the day was rainy and grey, dozens of people showed up to the Park Ranger Station in Edgewood Park to listen to speakers talk about the project’s importance and how it will impact not only the city, but the region as a whole as the largest urban tidal restoration project in all of New England. Following the press conference, volunteers walked down to the Edgewood Park Duck Pond to plant native species to rebuild the marsh habitat.

Click here to view video highlights from the press conference.

In 2009, Save the Sound received $2.2 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka the Stimulus Act) from the NOAA Restoration Center for two habitat restoration projects. The first project, which was completed in 2011, was the replacement of a degraded culvert at Bride Brook, Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme. The second project was the West River Tidal Marsh Restoration Project.

The West River forms the border of New Haven and West Haven and flows from Bethany, through Edgewood and West River Memorial Park, and out into Long Island Sound. In colonial times, this river system was part of a massive marsh complex that covered much of Connecticut’s coastline.

West River Map courtesy of Karl Musser

In the 1920s, the City of New Haven installed tide gates across the West River just south of Route 1. These tides gates allowed fresh water to flow downstream into the Sound, but closed during incoming tide. This tidal restriction limited brackish water, fish and aquatic organisms from entering the marsh and drastically changed the habitat and wildlife found in the West River watershed.

West River Tide Gates in 2009 at low tide

Save the Sound coordinated the replacement of three of the old tide gates with self-regulating ones that will restore tidal flow, fish passage, and species diversity to the river.

Construction at the Tide Gates in April 2012

Save the Sound also coordinated enhancements to the Edgewood Park Duck Pond, including a raised pedestrian walkway and boardwalk, to ensure that residents will still be able to enjoy the duck pond, even during high tide.

Edgewood Park Duck Pond Enhancements Completed, May 2012

In addition to the NOAA Restoration Center funds, Save the Sound received funding for the initial design of the West River Tidal Marsh Restoration Project from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Restore America’s Estuaries/NOAA partnership, and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Without the assistance of these project partners as well as New Haven Parks, Recreation and Trees, and the City of New Haven’s Department of Engineering, this project would not have been possible.

With the completion of the West River Tidal Marsh Restoration Project, Save the Sound and project partners restored over 80 acres of tidal marsh and seven miles of river habitat for fish and other wildlife.

Check out the media coverage from Saturday’s event:

New Haven Register: Project completed to restore tidal flow to New Haven’s West River, welcome back wildlife

New Haven Independent: Joe-Pye & Boneset Herald A New Day At Duck Pond

WNPR: New Haven Wetlands Get A Boost

You can learn more about Save the Sound’s habitat restoration program by visiting our web site at www.savethesound.org.

Posted by Rebecca Kaplan, director of communications for CFE/Save the Sound

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