Ash Creek Master Ecological Plan - Phase I Slides

On December 5, 2012, the consultants who conducted the grant-funded study for Phase I of the Ash Creek Ecological Plan presented the following presentation.  The plan is designed to generate discussion and does not reflect action plans of the Ash Creek Conservation Association.  We would like to find out what you consider to the be the key priorities.  Please send us your thoughts at ashcreekassoc@optonline.net 

 

NOTES FROM PRESENTATION

The consultants emphasized that the study is a starting point to provide information about what is known about the Ash Creek tidal estuary, what needs to be known, and to help those of us involved in protecting and restoring the estuary to create a roadmap for action.  In order to investigate the tidal estuary they broke the area into five sections: the Upper Creek (north of the Fairfield Ave Bridge), the Lower Creek (to the mouth of the estuary, the St. Mary's barrier sand spit, Turney Creek, and Riverside Creek.

The presenters emphasized that Ash Creek is a special place as it is very rare to find an intact tidal community between Stratford and the New York border.  Great Marsh Island is "the heart of the estuary."  It is a 15 acre wetland with Spartina Patens, which is a rare species.  If not for the St. Mary's barrier sand spit, there would be no Great Marsh Island.  They recommended periodically replenishing the sand on the dunes and suggested that the sand could come from the dredging operations that need to be regularly conducted to keep the channel open to the South Benson marina.  They also recommended that we be proactive in planting on the dunes to keep the dunes in place.  There is a very proscribed way to install sand dunes and plant them.  They suggested we install proper fencing around the sand dunes.  (ACCA Note:  Our dunes have been flattened by heavy machinery first by the Town of Fairfield during their dredging operations and then after sand was brought in to restore the dune, they were flattened again by the City of Bridgeport, and much of the sand was then washed away by Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Sandy.)  The consultants noted that the dunes at the sand spit were washed over during Hurricane Sandy and higher sand dunes can help with flood control from storms.  Their recommendations included rebuilding the sand dunes up 3-4 feet as part of the restoration efforts post-Sandy and noted that the sand dunes were already 2-3 feet too low.

The consultants showed maps they created of the habitats and mudflats.  They noted that there is an osprey nest in Upper Ash Creek on the power lines that cross over the creek.  The coastline along the train station was remediated, but not replanted.  The 2,800 foot embankment remains bare and if not replanted, invasive species such as phragmites could grow instead of desirable plants.  They noted that there are a lot of asphalt lots that have been left unused next to the Upper Ash Creek shoreline, which is not the highest and best use of the area.  There is not much biodiversity other than the mudflats and a semi-completed manmade wetland area near the train station.  Erosion is a concern for the bare embankment by the train station.

Phragmites are a problem in the Turney Creek and Riverside Creek areas due to tidal gates which prevent flooding of residential homes, but also reduce the level of salinity.  Phagmites can only grow in brackish water (mixture of fresh and salt water).  Riverside Creek has so many phragmites that it could be considered a fire hazard, as the plants tend to dry out and burn easily.  They are very thick in the Riverside Creek section.  There are even some phragmites in Lower Ash Creek near the storm drains installed by the City of Bridgeport to empty stormwater from Gilman Street directly into the estuary.  The presence of fresh water has allowed the phragmites to grow and since they establish roots 4-5 feet deep, it is important to remove them now before they really gain hold.  The tide gates need to be evaluated to see if improved gates would allow more salinity to the Turney and Riverside areas.

Riverside Creek has a meadow area, which is in short supply as meadows tend to turn into forests.  

The oyster beds in Lower Ash Creek play an important role in filtering the water that comes downstream from the Rooster River before it flows into the Sound.  One oyster can filter up 50 gallons of water per day.   The more clams and oysters in the tidal estuary, the better, as we will be contributing to the health of the Sound and to water quality in our own estuary.

The  combined storm water/sewer system in Bridgeport needs to be separated.  The City is working on that now in the Mount Grove Cemetary area, but it is a long-term project requiring millions of dollars in funding.   

There were many other findings and recommendations.  Please take a look at the slides and read the final report, which is published in a separate post.

 

 

 

 

 

Ash Creek Ecological Master Plan