Northeast
Joanna Detz/ecoRI News

RI - East Providence Erosion Project Brings Shoreline to Life

Growing up in the 1970s and ’80s across the Seekonk and Providence rivers in Rhode Island’s capital, John Torgan spent plenty of time exploring the state’s urban shoreline.

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Growing up in the 1970s and ’80s across the Seekonk and Providence rivers in Rhode Island’s capital, John Torgan spent plenty of time exploring the state’s urban shoreline.

He remembers them as dumps filled with sewage and littered with decaying oil tanks.

“They were horribly polluted,” said Torgan, who still lives in Providence. “No one was fishing or sailing.”

His childhood memories, however, also include the beauty of a peaceful island in the middle of a shallow 4-mile-long salt pond.

The fortunes of these waters and their surroundings have changed since an adolescent Torgan, now 51, was skipping rocks, collecting shells and investigating the coastline for marine life. The Providence and Seekonk rivers are still impaired waters, but, like the chain-link fence topped with barbed wire that once separated much of these waterways from the public, the derelict oil tanks have been removed. The rivers’ health has improved.

The two rivers, both of which share a legacy of industrial contamination and suffer from stormwater runoff pollution, aren’t recommended for swimming, but life on, under and around them has returned. Menhaden, bluefish, river herring, eels, osprey and cormorants are now routinely spotted. The occasional seal, dolphin, bald eagle and trophy-sized striped bass visit. Kayakers, fishermen, scullers and birdwatchers are easy to find.


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