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Connecticut receives $340,000 in federal funding to restore Rocky Neck, but it may not be enough

Salt marsh in Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme, Connecticut. The state recently received $340,000 in federal funding to restore marshland in the park.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Salt marsh in Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme, Connecticut. The state recently received $340,000 in federal funding to restore marshland in the park.

Connecticut recently received $340,000 in federal funding to restore marshland at Rocky Neck State Park as part of President Joe Biden’s “America the Beautiful” initiative. Still, state environmental officials say they are fighting an uphill battle to keep Rocky Neck and other ecosystems alive.

“The marsh at Rocky Neck State Park, over the last 20 or so years, has slowly been drowning. It used to be a very healthy marsh, and now it’s mostly mudflat and muck, not vegetation,” said Min Huang, leader of the Migratory Bird Program at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

Huang said the drowning is caused by nearby train tracks that are restricting the flow of water out of the marsh.

“Our restoration project is aimed at dredging out Bride Brook, to hopefully restore more of that tidal exchange, and drain the marsh a little bit more. And all the dredge material that we take out of the brook we’re going to put back into the marsh to try to raise the elevation of the marsh,” Huang said.

The project aims to restore lost habitat and food for birds, fish and other wildlife in the area, which could have ripple effects throughout the ecosystem.

“Losing even just 80 acres is important in the grand scheme of things. And when you look at those kinds of losses magnified across Connecticut’s coast, you really see that it’s a real uphill battle,” Huang said.

Despite DEEP’s work, water levels will still continue to rise, and Huang said the progress made from this project could eventually reverse. A permanent solution would cost around $6 million and would involve shutting down the nearby train tracks for months to fully redo them.

In the meantime, DEEP officials hope that with some nudging from them, the marsh can adapt to the rising water table on its own.

“Any little change we can make in a positive direction is good; we just might run out of time eventually to save some of these species,” Huang said.

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