2013-10-31 / Front Page

Solution Sought for Maidford River

By Jack Kelly


Maintenance of the Maidford River will be ensured with the $4 million proceeds recently awarded by the 
Department of the Interior. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Maintenance of the Maidford River will be ensured with the $4 million proceeds recently awarded by the Department of the Interior. (Photo by Jack Kelly) The picturesque Maidford River runs through Middletown, meanders towards its terminus at Third Beach and empties into the Sakonnet River. The river can be a trickle at times during dry spells, or it can be a foaming, raging torrent during storm­induced heavy rains. Regardless of its changing flow, the river brings life to many wildlife habitats and farm fields during its travels to the sea. It supplies fresh water wetlands and brackish water marshes, which in turn support countless species of plants, insects, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

There has always been a problem with the Third Beach end of the river, where its last hundred yards cross the sandy beach. Waves push large quantities of sand, seaweed and storm debris into the channel and cause significant blockages, especially during nor’easters. With the Maidford’s progress halted, water backs up into the surrounding marshes and, coupled with the storm’s rainfall, floods vital wetland habitats. The flooded areas suffer a loss of vegetation and animal life, while water quality deteriorates to the point of stagnation in some areas. The Town of Middletown uses backhoes on numerous occasions each year to clear the blocked channel and relieve the flooding.

The Department of the Interior recently awarded $6 million to Rhode Island for “project specific” programs on sites directly impacted by last year’s Hurricane Sandy.

According to Charles Vandemoer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refuge manager for the five national wildlife refuges in Rhode Island, “Four million dollars is slated for projects on the Maidford River in Middletown and the Narrow River in Narragansett. For the Maidford River, we are looking for a permanent solution to the blockages and flooding issues. We are looking forward to working with the Town of Middletown and local conservation groups, including Save the Bay, the Norman Bird Sanctuary, and others. We will look at the impact that any changes will have on the vegetation and animal life in the wetlands, its water quality, and complicating factors such as the height of the wetlands compared to the height of the river. We want to identify strategies for a permanent solution and manage the area accordingly. These solutions must leave the wetlands resilient over time and place this habitat in a high quality position.”

On a separate issue, Vandemoer addressed the plans for burying the power lines along Middletown’s Sachuest Point Road. “This is a work in progress and the State of Rhode Island, Town of Middletown, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife

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