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State wants to create oyster reefs in Portsmouth’s Town Pond

DEM’s application is before CRMC


PORTSMOUTH — The R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has proposed creating and maintaining a 2.88-acre oyster reef restoration area in Town Pond, which DEM said will improve the pond’s ecosystem.

DEM’s Division of Marine Fisheries, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), has an application before the state Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) to create Eastern oyster reefs in DEM’s Town Pond Shellfish Management Area.

The application involves two types of restoration work. The first involves placing cultch — weathered oyster or surf clam shell — in Town Pond to “enhance the substrate for oyster survival and recruitment.” The second combines clutching and then seeding that cultch with juvenile oysters.

DEM plans to create oyster reefs over a four-year period, resulting in about 720 square feet of oyster reef in selected 0.1-acre restoration plots.

According to the application, the project would build upon previous restoration work in Town Pond that was led by Roger Williams University between 2008 and 2014, as well as other ongoing oyster restoration and research in other Rhode Island waters.

The work is funded by the Oyster Reef Restoration Initiative, a subcomponent of the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which is focused on the restoration and management of declining habitats. The initiative is a voluntary conservation program with the goal of creating sustainable oyster habitats and oyster reefs in sanctuary areas — those closed to oyster harvesting to protect restored oyster reefs — in Rhode Island waters.

Anyone who wants to object to the application must attend the hearing and give sworn testimony. The date of the hearing will be provided as soon as possible after receipt of the request. 

Such a request, including a mailing address, e-mail address and contact number, must be received at the CRMC office (Oliver H. Stedman Government Center, 4808 Tower Hill Road, Suite 3, Wakefield, RI 02879-1900) on or before June 1. 

Pond’s history

Town Pond, also known locally as Salt Pond, is where thre first Colonial settlers of Portsmouth reportedly landed in 1638. It remained a tidal (salt) pond until about 1949. Then it was filled with dredged material from the Fall River navigation improvement project, and remained a mudflat in the 1950s.  In the 1960s, electrical transmission lines were installed across the site and in the 1970s, phragmites invaded the area.

In the 1990s, the Narragansett Bay Estuaries Program, with assistance from Sen. John Chafee, got Congress to authorize the "Narragansett Bay Ecosystem Restoration Study" that included restoration of the pond, which was completed in 2008. 

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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.