Marsh 'tank' attacks Long Pond phragmites

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Effort is state's largest yet against phragmites

The phragmites that choke some 55 acres of Little Compton's Long Pond have been dealt what groups hope will prove to be a lethal dose of herbicide.

Now comes the wait as organizers of the assault watch to see the impact of the August 28 to Sept. 10 spray effort conducted by Aquatic Control Technologies, a Connecticut firm that specializes in such work.

"It could be many months before we really see the impact," said John Berg, Sakonnet landscape manager for the Nature Conservancy. But the weather was good — there was no rain and little wind to wash or blow the applications away, he said.

The phragmites had taken over about a third of the 165-acre pond on Little Compton's south shore just in from the barrier beach near the Warren's Point Beach Club.

For years now, the Group to Save Long Pond has worked to raise money (over $100,000 was needed) and collect permits

for what will be the largest ever phragmite removal effort in Rhode Island.

"Phragmites have taken over so much of this beautiful pond and it has steadily been getting worse," said Sharon Linder, who with John Marshall and others has led the effort. Around most of the pond, it is now nearly impossible to get to the water.

They were inspired by similar efforts in nearby Round Pond, Quicksand Pond, Ponderosa Pond and Briggs Marsh among other places. Save The Bay and the state Department of Environmental Management (which pitched in with a grant to help monitor the project for the next decade) have also supported the work.

The crew from Aquatic Control Technologies arrived with a tracked vehicle topped by a spray mount with which it plowed into the tall phragmite thickets in a pattern that can only be seen from above. An airboat helped out near the water's edge.

The spray, he said, targets phragmites and is delivered in a way that spares most native species.

The hope is that, as has happened elsewhere, native plants, then fish, crabs and waterfowl will return given open space and time.

At Round Pond, where phragmites had taken over six acres before being eradicated, "We have wildlife returning … geese, swans, ducks, blue heron, egrets. The pond is alive once more," said Hilary Woodhouse.

Mr. Berg said long-legged wading birds that have been forced out by phragmites will be able to return. "They need the shallows and the phragmites own those now."

And it should look better when native plants return.

"It creates a much nicer, more natural pattern — not like what you see there now, like the side of the highway in Hackensack, New Jersey."

After the spray takes effect, dead stalks will be cut up to create a mulch. For the next few years, Mr. Berg said more herbicide will be applied to beat back surviving clumps. Beyond that, a ten-year monitoring plan is in place.

"It will really be something to see this pond come back."

 

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.