The Town of Westerly has secured more than $1 million in grants to dredge Winnepaug Pond in Misquamicut.
Winnepaug Pond, behind Misquamicut Beach, has built up a lot of sediment over the course of 50 years or more, said Amy Grzybowski, Westerly’s director of planning, code enforcement, and grant administration. She said the town has wanted to dredge the pond for more than 10 years.
Then, Superstorm Sandy dumped more sand, making it more shallow and warm.
“There’s a lot of sediment buildup in the pond, and when there is sediment buildup in the pond, it makes it so that wildlife and species cannot survive as well as it just doesn’t do its job properly as a salt pond,” said Grzybowski.
Among its many roles, the salt pond is a nursery to birds, fish, and shellfish.
Grzybowski said money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s emergency watershed protection (EWP) program, along with matching state money, will help restore the pond’s habitats and make it less vulnerable to future storms. EWP program responds to emergencies created by natural disasters.
“In our case, it was Hurricane Sandy,” said Grzybowski. “We estimate that about 60,000 to 70,000 cubic yards of sand was deposited into Winnepaug Pond that needs to come out,” said Grzybowski. “Through that project, we will remove the 60 to 70,000 cubic yards of sand and put it back on the beach.”
The planning, engineering, and permitting process will begin next month, said Grzybowski.
“Nothing is quick, especially when you’re dealing with federal grant opportunities,” said Grzybowski. “The engineering is a key piece and getting it permitted, because so many different agencies need to permit the project, so that you are doing it appropriately.”
The Coastal Resources Management Council and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will develop a plan to safely remove the sediment, using a method that creates less erosion than the typical drain and drag methods. The actual dredging will likely begin next year.