Environment
4:00 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

New Technique To Restore Eroding Shorelines In Place At Narrow River

Rhode Island has lost more than half of its salt marsh habitats to erosion and other climate change impacts. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse will tour the Narrow River tomorrow to learn about a new technique to restore eroding shorelines.  

The edge of the salt marsh at the Narrow River has eroded over time from storms, tidal surges, boat wakes, among other things.
The edge of the salt marsh at the Narrow River has eroded over time from storms, tidal surges, boat wakes, among other things.
Credit Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

The edge of the salt marsh at the Narrow River has eroded over time from storms, tidal surges, boat wakes, among other things. The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the Coastal Resources Management Council, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has installed logs made out of coconut fibers under the eroding bank of the marsh.

John Torgan, Director of Ocean and Coastal Conservation at the Nature Conservancy, said the restoration team anchored the logs using timber and wooden stakes and placed bags of recycled oyster shells over the logs to protect them.

“And that’s it. It’s pretty low tech,” said Torgan. “The idea is to incorporate natural materials that are really friendly to the environment, that plants and animals like, and that in the future this marsh edge will grow out to encompass, and  eventually completely obscure, the coir logs so that you won’t even know that we were ever here.”

The Narrow River is one of three places in the state where such a technique is being tested to see if it could be applied statewide. This is a more natural alternative technique to restore and protect eroding shorelines. Hard materials, such as rock, wood, or metal bulkheads, are used to stabilize about 30 percent of Rhode Island’s coastline, according The Nature Conservancy.

Whitehouse will witness the Conservancy staff add more bags of recycled oyster shells, sample for fish with special nets, and test water quality.