Thursday, June 13, 2024

Tidal Wetlands News

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By Tucker Chase

There is good news from the EPA’s Superfund Project Manager, James DiLorenzo, regarding the tidal wetlands opposite Uberti’s on Ferry Boulevard.  At the end of August, EPA will conduct tests in the wetlands to determine the presence of asbestos and other potential carcinogens. In addition, he indicated that regardless of those test results, the EPA will clean out the culvert under Ferry Boulevard that connects Ferry Creek to the tidal wetlands. He was not able to give a date for that work to be done, but thought that it could be initiated at the beginning of 2024.

On the northwest side of the intersection of Lockwood Ave. and Ferry Boulevard, across the street from Uberti’s (next to where Mike Curran sold Christmas trees for years when my kids were growing up), is a tidal wetlands of about one acre in size.

Twenty-five years ago, when we moved to one of the properties adjacent to the marsh, one could see the tide go up and down from the surrounding properties on Broad Street and Academy Hill Terrace. It attracted shore birds, aquatic life used to salt water, and vegetation native to any of the coastal areas that we have in abundance in Stratford.  However, over the years the tidal action notably decreased, and with it a lessening of the birds that I became accustomed to.

In 1938, the state of Connecticut acquired part of some private property, which is now Ferry Boulevard. The plan was to place an 18” diameter pipe under what was then called Oakwood Street. The pipe connected the tidal wetlands with ‘Long Brook’, which is now called Ferry Creek (see survey below).

It’s disturbing to see this survey knowing what we know now – especially. where it says ’salt marsh’.  All of Ferry Blvd. was the ocean edge and naturally stopped where the land was higher.

Today that connection still exists, although I have been told that it is now twenty-four inches. It has a tide gate to help prevent storm surges, but the tide gate has been broken for many years, which has considerably lessened the natural salinity of the wetland. The Town of Stratford’s Health Department conducted salinity tests for the EPA and found evidence of brackish water, so a small amount of ocean water still gets in. In addition, the openings at both ends of the culvert have been compromised by silt and sand buildup. (see photo of outlet, Ferry Creek side of the culvert). The effectiveness of the culvert is currently nil.

Ferry Creek side of the culver

So, great news that it will be re-opened, hopefully with a new and better and larger tide gate that allows fish, etc. to move back and forth, and a maintenance plan that will be followed to keep it open for decades.

Dreadful all of the digging, backfilling, rip rap, crushed stone and asphalt that buried it.  How fabulous would it have been to have it as truly coastal?  But silly to say – hindsight is indeed 20/20.  This culvert is a meager attempt to save something.  I am sure there was controversy then about keeping that acre as a salt marsh. – for me and others around it lucky that it is still there.

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