Connecticut’s largest saltmarsh to be restored using Superfund money
State and federal officials plan to use more than $1 million from Superfund penalty settlements to restore the largest remaining saltmarsh in Connecticut at the mouth of the Housatonic River in Stratford.
Most of the money is coming from environmental penalties paid because of major pollution at the location of the Lordship Point Gun Club, formerly known as the Remington Gun Club, and at the old Raymark Industries site.
A federal official said detailed planning for the restoration work on the 63 acres of saltmarsh are already underway and that actual work on the site is expected to begin in the autumn and winter of 2020. Construction activities are expected to take 2-3 months.
The Great Meadows Marsh Unit contains the largest block of unditched saltmarsh remaining in Connecticut.
RICK JACOBSON, CHIEF OF THE BUREAU OF NATURAL RESOURCES FOR THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION.
Known as the Great Meadows Marsh Unit, the saltmarsh is part of the Steward B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge.
Experts estimate that more than three million pounds of lead shot were fired into the marsh between the 1920s and 1986 when the gun club halted operations at Lordship Point. Another source of contamination there is the estimated 48 million clay targets that were used for skeet shooting over the marsh.
Pollution from the Raymark Industries operations includes lead, copper, zinc, polychlorinated byphenyls – more commonly known as PCBs – and dioxins.
“The Great Meadows Marsh Unit contains the largest block of unditched saltmarsh remaining in Connecticut,” said Rick Jacobson, chief of the bureau of natural resources for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Jacobson said the saltmarsh at the mouth of the Housatonic is the only known location in Connecticut of an endangered species of wild herb known as Marsh Pink.
“Healthy marsh habitat at Great Meadows supports fish important to the ecosystem and economy and improves coastal resiliency against storms and sea level rise,” said Pat Montanio, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
NOAA’s office of habitat conservation, which Montanio heads, is the lead agency in the restoration effort and will work with DEEP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the project.
The McKinney National Wildlife Refuge is part of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Complex, an interconnected system of preserves covering more than 36,000 acres in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.
Andrew French, wildlife refuge manager for Conte system, said the restoration plan is intended “to improve tidal saltmarsh habitat for the saltmarsh sparrow, a species of special concern” for both state and federal environmental agencies.
Healthy marsh habitat at Great Meadows supports fish important to the ecosystem and economy and improves coastal resiliency against storms and sea level rise.
PAT MONTANIO, OF THE NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION.
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Scientists estimate the songbird’s population has dropped 70 percent in the last 15 years,” French said.
The restoration plans will help a variety of fish, waterfowl, shellfish and species like the diamondback terrapin, according to federal experts.
Officials said a significant portion of the Great Meadows Marsh is no longer able to fully function as a tidal saltmarsh as a result of actions to dump dredged soil and fill in portions of the wetlands in the 1950s.
Taking out man-made structures, removing badly placed soil and fill and removing invasive plant species will help return the saltmarsh to a more natural state, according to officials.
Funding for the project is coming from a $526,000 Superfund settlement relating to the Raymark Industries site and an additional $218,000 resulting from settlement of the gun club pollution settlement. Another $300,000 is being added to the project funding from a settlement with General Electric for contamination of other sections of the Housatonic River.
Gregory B. Hladky can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org