Benefits

The restoration of the salt marsh will improve habitat for important fisheries species. Restoration of Mussachuck Creek will enhance the adjacent Narragansett Bay saltwater fishery by increasing the herring population which are baitfish for striped bass and bluefish, and enhance the freshwater fishery in Brickyard Pond and EchoLake by increasing the herring population which are forage fish for largemouth bass. Based upon monitoring results from other salt marsh restoration projects in Narragansett Bay, Mussachuck salt marsh restoration will increase the density and diversity of fish and shellfish.

Mussachuck Creek drains into upper Narragansett Bay which is a prime recreational fishing area for striped bass and bluefish. Improving herring access to spawning waters via the installation of the self regulating tide will enhance both the saltwater and freshwater fisheries. The Mussachuck Creek restoration project also offers a unique opportunity to work with and educate the golfing community about the value of salt marshes and anadromous fish runs.   


History of the Salt Marsh

Mussachuck Creek has had a rich and long history of human alteration. The present channel is actually the remnants of an old canal that was excavated circa 1845 to facilitate the transport of brick material from the brickyard (now Brickyard Pond), operated by the Narragansett Brick Company, to the Providence River.   In 1905 the “meadows,” as it was known prior to the turn of the century, was dammed at its south end to form what is today Echo Lake. Accounts of the productivity of these habitats prior to brick operations are sparse; however, the alterations of Brickyard Pond either created new conditions for anadromous fish habitat or enhanced the existing conditions of the small freshwater tributary and estuary of Mussachuck. It is widely known that a significant river herring run once existed in the Mussachuck Creek Watershed. Rhode Island Country Club members were known to fish along the course for stripers that followed river herring up into the creek. The “meadows” area, underlying Echo Lake today, is likely to have supported anadromous fish habitat pre-damming.


Restoration

The Mussachuck Creek salt marsh and anadromous fish habitat restoration project will replace the existing dysfunctional tide gate with a Self-Regulating Tide Gate (SRT). The Natural Resources Conservation Service completed hydraulic and hydrologic analyses to determine the necessary steps to restore tidal hydrology. The installation of the SRT will allow tidal flushing of the salt marsh during normal tidal cycles, while providing flood protection for upland areas. The SRT will be set at a designated high water elevation and will automatically close once it reaches that elevation. During storm tides, the SRT is designed to remain in the closed position until the tide recedes. Once the tide recedes the SRT will automatically reopen to allow free passage of water into and out of the salt marsh area. 

The modeling conducted by NRCS and a consultant determined that dredging would be needed to allow for complete tidal restoration of the salt marsh. As part of the restoration project, the mouth of the creek from just east of Nayatt Road to Narragansett Bay will be dredged. The dredging will allow the creek inland of Washington Highway to fully drain during low tide preventing the impoundment of freshwater in the creek.

After installation of the SRT, Phragmites will be treated with an herbicide at the end of the growing season. Above ground plant biomass will be removed by mulching to facilitate re-colonization by native salt marsh plants. RI Department of Environmental Management’s Mosquito Abatement Coordinator has been consulted to ensure that the restoration plan incorporates mosquito abatement techniques. It is expected that RIDEM will provide marsh Open Water Marsh Management (OMWM) practices to enhance tidal exchange to and from the marsh area while also abating potential mosquito problems.

Construction of the marsh restoration began in late October 2006 including the dredging at the mouth of Mussachuck Creek, excavation of restoration areas along Mussachuck Creek within the golf course, installation of the footing for the self-regulating tide gate and construction of the new bridges in the golf course (which will accommodate the increased tidal height and the expanded wetland areas).