Monitoring Sandy's Effect on Narragansett Bay

Flooded streets, washed-out docks and eroded beaches reflect not just the power of Sandy's storm-driven waves, but the decisions – both good and bad – made by the people who live along the shores of our ocean and Bay.



Flooded streets, washed-out docks and eroded beaches reflect not just the power of Sandy's storm-driven waves, but the decisions – both good and bad – made by the people who live along the shores of our ocean and Bay. "Barrier beaches naturally migrate," says Tom Kutcher, baykeeper for Save the Bay. "The waves will pick up the sand, carry it over the dunes and deposit it on the other side." But when structures and buildings are in the way, that process goes awry. Humans don't always take nature into account when deciding where to build and where to pave – and nature, in turn, tends to ignore the needs of us humans.

Kutcher says some of the good decisions we've made paid off for the Bay. Recent upgrades in infrastructure make it much less likely that we'll get massive overflows of raw sewage into the Bay during rainstorms. Nature also gave us a bit of luck – Sandy didn't bring us much rain, so effects from storm water runoff were minimal. But erosion along the shores dumped a lot of suspended solids into the Bay, and that means increased turbidity, says Kutcher, making it tough for sunlight to reach plants on the bottom. Those effects should naturally diminish within a week or two.

The storm also swept a lot of debris into the Bay, he says, which is not only unsightly and dangerous to boaters, but some of it can contaminate the water. Timbers from docks and piers treated with creosote, for example, are "incredibly toxic," Kutcher adds. CleanBays is already at work to clean up the shorelines. The nonprofit group, formerly known as Clean the Bay, reorganized earlier this year and brought in a new executive director, Captain Kent Dresser of Newport. 

Wenley Ferguson, Save the Bay's restoration coordinator, says flooding events along the shores aren't limited to the big storms that get all the attention. Normal tidal cycles bring high tides of five feet or more to the Bay about five times a year. "We have to decide over the long term if we want to keep trying to mitigate these events," she says. Preventing construction close to the shore and restoring wetlands goes a long way toward making the inevitable storms and floods easier to weather.

Anyone who wants to volunteer to help with the cleanup from Sandy can contact either Save the Bay or CleanBays. And anyone who wants to help make those good decisions that will lead to a better Bay in the future can vote "Yes" for Questions 5 and 6 next week on Election Day. Question 5 will allocate funding for sewer-treatment upgrades that are critical to a healthy Bay ecosystem, and Question 6 will help to fund much-needed improvements in storm water management. 

 

Photos courtesy of Tom Kutcher, Save The Bay Narragansett Baykeeper


If you’re into this blog wait until you see what’s inside Rhode Island Monthly each month.
Only $1.50  per issue when you sign up for a year. Visit the Subscription Center.


 



 

You might enjoy reading...

Becoming a Real Rhode Islander: Learning to Clam

A Rhode Island resident tests out different Rhode Island-centric skills, in an effort to become more connected to the Ocean State.

Paddling Across Rhode Island: A Firsthand Account

Four men completed the journey across the state from Massachusetts to Connecticut.

Tragedy and Renewal at Travis Family Farm

How a community rallied around a family and their stunning farm.

The Worst Snowstorm of All Time

It was a snowy February, though nothing compared to the winter of '78 – but what about the Great Snow of 1717?

Providencia

We're hip, we know it. And so does "Portlandia" star Fred Armisen.

Popular Articles

  1. BYOB: 22 places for good food, booze sans the big check
    The Drinks Are On You! We love going out to eat but then we get the check and — yikes — half of it is for the liquor. That’s why we like places that are BYOB. We can satisfy our craving for good food without going broke.
  2. Cocktail Party
    Craft cocktails are all the rage, and Rhode Island’s scene is getting bigger as fast as you can say, “Hey bartender!” We imbibed far and wide to find some of the best libations, locally made liquors and bar food. It's five o'clock somewhere!
  3. Entertaining with Claudine
    Claudine Pepin and Rollie Wesen throw a backyard dinner party — one for the books — at their home in Barrington.
  4. 2014 Summer Movie Series
    Check out the numerous venues all over the state that offer a variety of movie screenings (most outdoors).
  5. Ava Anderson Non-Toxic Expands Product Line
    The personal care line has rapidly expanded from the original six skin care products to seventy-two Ava items, including home cleaning, baby and pet products.