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Author Topic: IMEP #117 The Dowd’s Creek Habitat Restoration Project 1986-1989  (Read 40 times)
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IMEP #117
A Review of The Dowd’s Creek Habitat Restoration Project 1986-1989
“Understanding Science Through History”
Shallow Water Baseline Proposal
Why We Need The Finfish And Shellfish Habitat
Restoration Guide Chapters Finished
Timothy C. Visel
EPA-LISS HRI Team – December 2005
The Long Island Sound Study
Habitat Restoration Initiative

This is the viewpoint of Tim Visel, no other agency or organization

The Proposal to Begin Classification of Heritage Habitat/Species Profiles for Sub-tidal Areas

Revised March 25, 2009 – Technical Corrections March 2021
Thank you, The Blue Crab ForumTM, for supporting these Habitat History posts

A Note from Tim Visel

In 1986, I became convinced that we had incomplete knowledge (information) regarding habitat succession in response to energy and temperature.  The remains of Dowd’s Creek, once a barrier inlet, was filled in as the Connecticut State Park developed in the 1920’s.  It can be seen in photographs of the State Park in 1927.  A small salt pond, many acres of marsh were filled in when the Trolley Line was established to the Grand Pavilion (Emil Miller, personal communications to T. Visel, 1970’s).  Dowd’s Creek was straightened, and a lateral connection made to the west joining Tom’s Creek.  Dowd’s Creek stopped functioning as a natural creek but became a lateral drainage ditch – still tidal but subject to loose fill wash overs during heavy rains.  The area of the inlet is described by Terwilliger Consulting, Inc. and listed in May 2015 as part of an excellent record of barrier spits (See Appendix #4: Tracy Monegan Rice, Inventory of Habitat Modifications to Tidal Inlets).  Dowd’s Creek is at a weak part of Hammonasset Beach, subject to severe erosion.  The littoral drift here is to the west, much of the drift in the easterly part of Hammonasset Beach is to the east.  The beach broke at Dowd’s former inlet approximate location in 1939 and 1978, and a rare picture with a break (Dowd’s) of the beach can be found in Images of America Hammonasset Beach Park, Brian Noe and Shelby Docker (2017), pg. 122. 

Richard K. Clifford, Director of the Office of State Parks and Recreation, was approached about clearing debris, crumbled bridges and restoring tidal flow, which had been blocked by loose fill and dead vegetation (See Letter of May 13, 1987).

The lateral ditch would be cleared of blockages and sections of small gravel, bivalve shell, cobblestones and sand would be placed at survey intervals to assess species habitat succession.  Water quality tests for bacteria would also be included as the area lacked septic systems from residential housing.  If marine food chain species could be seen to return (with volunteers), it could become the basis for reestablishing a larger salt pond to study bird life and forage species (See Dr. John Barclay Soil Sample dated July 9, 1987).   Dowd’s Creek was supposed to be a part of a barrier spit/beach habitat succession study.  It was in an area largely unpopulated and received no direct point source discharges.  Bacterial water testing was to provide some baseline data for temperature and waterfowl bacterial inputs.  A section between two low-profile (30-inch) bridges would be surveyed, then cleaned of debris, sample habitats installed, and monitoring would commence.  The project was halted as to this removal of fill was classified as navigational dredging, which required additional permitting.  A complete description of the project can be found here http://sound.school/community/communityed/marine-publications/.

The need still exists to look at habitat succession for various habitat types, especially for waters under 10-feet deep.  The project was summarized for the EPA Long Island Sound Study in December 2005 and, again, in 2009.  Technical corrections were made for the Habitat History series in March of 2021.

The Dowd’s Creek Proposal
Pilot Project
“The Need of a Habitat Baseline for the Marine Environment”
Abbreviated Case History 1983-1989
Timothy C. Visel
Re-keyed for the EPA LISS Habitat Restoration Committee – December 2005

In 1985, I planned a Connecticut citizen monitoring effort similar to the “Pond Watchers” that Dr. Virginia Lee started with Rhode Island Sea Grant. When I was employed at URI at the time (1978-81), I was amazed at how controversial something as simple as citizen monitoring could be.  In 1986, I participated in a two-day water quality workshop for the Pond Watchers at the University of Rhode Island.  At UCONN Sea Grant, I started to organize a similar group, which were called the “Cove Watchers” and would soon learn how sensitive this issue was first-hand. Most of the “Cove Watchers” program dealt with classifying winter flounder population assemblages to a “habitat index.”  This effort was to support volunteer monitoring of Alewife Cove post-dredging.  The index is the measure of how “healthy” the habitat is. It is the “yardstick upon which to measure,” according to Dr. Art Gaines at Woods Hole, who I worked with in the early 1980’s as a UMASS Marine Cooperative Extension Agent.  In Connecticut, we also needed the critical habitat yardstick – without it, observations were just that, a presence/absence study, but no measure.  Observations did have value, but to draw conclusions about reference habitat relationships could not be validated.  Without the habitat index, it was a point in time with no historical reference or notation of a norm or expectation.  Massachusetts had selected a salt pond on Martha’s Vineyard to be the “control” habitat baseline, and Dr. Virginia Lee had done the same in Southern Rhode Island with two relatively undisturbed salt ponds.  [1University of Rhode Island Marine Technical Report #73 (1980). An Elusive Compromise: Rhode Island Coastal Ponds and Their People, Virginia Lee.]

Connecticut had no pristine “control” or baseline coastal pond for determining heritage species as with Massachusetts or Rhode Island.  Holly Pond, for example, was so degraded, it barely supported vegetation.  [Environmental Review Team Report – Holly Pond, Stamford and Darien, Ct. King’s Mark Resource Conservation and development Area, May, 1985.]
The coves in our area were also in advanced atrophic decline by the 1980’s, thus, early attempts to build or “create” a new salt pond (1979 - US Army Corps) at Hammonasset State Park with a purpose of trying to restore some flounder and shellfish habitat.  After exposure to Dr. Gaines biodiversity habitat index of 25% shell/sand, 25% mud, 25% pebbles/rocks and 25% vegetation, on the Cape I proposed building a small salt pond at the end of Dowd’s Creek at Hammonassett State Beach in 1985.  We would replace the habitats with the same index mixture from Massachusetts, 25% of each habitat type, and UCONN graduate students and local volunteers would assess the populations. We thought that Madison’s waters were relatively “clean,” and road runoff could be corrected/mitigated. Everyone thought that it was a great effort, and National Sea Grant Office lined up $1.5 million for additional test sites in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and New Jersey. If ours were successful, we would be the beginning of a possible “Fisheries Restoration Service.”  Similar projects were planned on Long Island and New Jersey (shellfish restoration/habitat enhancement) and New York State had proposed a shell/cultivation program with its hardshell fishermen (Kassner).  The project had two phases – clean a partially filled section of creek and restore a tidal function/pond at the extreme east end and monitor it.  A small section would be shelled with oyster cultch and seeded with both hard clams and softshell clams.  The Madison Shellfish Commission had offered to provide any seed shellfish to support the initiative.  Both the Madison Land Trust and Shellfish Commission had pledged sponsorship or volunteer support with long-term monitoring.

Site Selection and Project Plan

Hammonassett State Park has a long history of filling in tidal areas with fill and dredged material.  In 1965 an offshore hydraulic dredge filled in much of the salt pond complex between the “water tower” (now absent) and the beach east of it.  In December of 1978 a proposal was made to recover a more recently filled salt pond labeled A-L at West Beach.  A response from the Army Corps in early 1979 stated that it is not the agency that organized salt-water habitat reclamation.

According to Mr. Emil Miller, a former park resident off Dudley Lane in Madison, the salt pond marsh and tidal creek now known as Dowd’s Creek, originally was not the easterly branch of Tom’s Creek also named from the Dowd Family (Tom’s Creek named for Thomas Dowd) who lived at the entrance of Webster Point in Madison.  Mr. Miller stated that when the trolley track line was established to the grand beach pavilion, a pre-existing salt pond marsh and creek inlet was filled.  In the process, early 1930’s (this pavilion was taken down early 1970’s) Dowd’s Creek was substantially filled and straightened and connected to Tom’s Creek.  By 1986, the creek was little more than a lateral drainage ditch filled with debris, but still had the opportunity of tidal flow with a direct connection to Tom’s Creek to the west at the edge of Hammonassett State Park.

Habitat Questions

What is the normal or heritage species diversity/assemblage was the primary goal.  Secondary was restoration of sub tidal shellfish habitats in the Town of Madison.  If some stream morphology could be restored and the failing bridges fixed, is it possible to restore some of this habitat that had long ceased to function as its previous ecology?  According to Mr. Emil Miller, Hammonassett Beach was once a barrier beach system – a small tidal creek occasionally communicated or breached during storms.  Thus, the beach was originally two beaches, and the other with a small marsh salt pond complex separating the two larger sections.  What was proposed was very limited removal of fill that had washed/eroded into the creek – several hundred yards – the project proposed to utilize periodic cleaning by the State of CT Health Dept – Mosquito and Vector Section.  “The Mosquito and Vector section supports your efforts to obtain Sea Grant funds to study the changes of finfish, shellfish and other wildlife in this restored area.”  Paul Capotosto, then Chief of the Dept. of Health Services Mosquito and Vector Section wrote on May 13, 1987 that it was considered mosquito control.  Information from Daniel Civio at the University of Connecticut, who provided copies of 1934 over-flight of Hammonassett Beach which indicated the presence of two distinct watershed areas.

The Dowd’s Creek project was halted over permit questions on August 7, 1987 by the DEP Office of Long Island Sound Programs.  A workshop in 1988 detailed permitting procedures that could take years of documentation and/or reviews.   An effort to partially establish habitat indexes again was attempted by way of environmental history fisheries reviews.  Similar to what Dr. Virginia Lee had done in parts of Rhode Island – attempt as best as possible to create a fisheries history coast wide on each cove, river, creek, etc.  [A Comprehensive Survey and Action program for Connecticut’s Coastal Embayments and Rivers – August 5, 1987 The Sound’s Conservancy.]The overall goal was to try compiling an estuarine habitat index by using historical information.  The Coastal Cove and Embayment Board, which was created by the Coastal Area Management Act, which in 1982 had asked DEP to consider and support this statewide historical fisheries review.  For some time, especially for finfish and shellfish restoration this discussion was caught in habitat value discussions.  The Sound’s Conservancy - a non-profit organization then out of Essex, CT continued these habitat quality discussions into formal proposals (See Appendix #1).  A January 19, a 1988 Coastal Embayment Advisory Board member asked these questions squarely – the significance of any parameter depends upon how much that “value departs from the normal or expected value for a particular type of embayment” during the same board meeting “several board members noted the importance of documenting current shellfish information for historical reference” and asked “how the relative importance of species should be determined in evaluating habitat quality.”  [Distribution of Minutes, Arthur J. Rocque Jr. February 22, 1988.]
 Cove and Embayment Board members were to vote on this key habitat indexing issue, which many of the Board members were convinced was critical to future finfish and shellfish restoration efforts. 

In the 1980’s, several organizations in the state had expressed interest in enhancing coastal resources.   Memories of the Niantic bay scallop fishery or local flounder fishing, for example, shared large “user group” participation.  To address these groups an effort to provide guidance in this are a lead to a collaborative effort between regulatory agencies, researchers, scientists and municipal leaders.  In 1987, University of Connecticut Sea Grant Program printed A Guide To Restoring Coastal Resources in 1992.  The foreword of this UCONN publication #CT-SG-92-04 was written by William Niering, and in it, he states, “Within the Long Island Sound estuary, restoration of finfish and shellfish populations must be another one of our top priorities.”  However, specific technical guidelines of recommendations for restoring finfish and shellfish resources have been slow to materialize.  Although prominently mentioned as part of the new Coastal Area Management goals of restoring coastal resources in 1978 included:  [Report to the legislature’s committee on coastal management. The Connecticut Coastal Area Management Program, Planning Report, No 27, September 1, 1978.] (pg. 20) Planning Report #24     

1. Restoration and enhancement of Connecticut’s shellfish industry
2. Restoration, preservation and enhancement of the states recreational and commercial fisheries had raised again by the Coastal Cove and Embayment Board in 1988 they remain unfinished.  Although shellfish and finfish restoration opportunities then generated the bulk of the public questions, specific restoration guidelines and recommendations are yet to be developed (some two decades later).  That is why we still need the HRI habitat chapters (guidelines) completed (2005).

Today, The Sound School is now working with the environmental organizations and cooperating researchers to establish protocols and standard operations for several marine environmental monitoring efforts. It’s quite an undertaking!

However, we still seek to have the critical baseline habitat index, a look at the “original forest” so to speak and not the stumps of one cut off as one retired Guilford CT shell fisherman mentioned.  Comparing “stumps to stumps” without the index is disappointing.  If we cannot build or reconstruct the original “forest,” or heritage species index, then the effort to establish the historical one, as proposed by the disbanded Coastal Embayment Board, should be renewed.  The entire concept of the Citizen’s Embayment Board of resource use/management needs to be brought back.  Many people were very concerned with its sudden dismissal over policy issue differences. I thought at the time it played a critical role of citizen input from resource user groups in our State.  I still do – Tim Visel.

PART 1 Description Overview and History of Project

Environmental Fisheries/Habitat History
For Dowd’s Creek
June 1987

Re-keyed for the LISS – BI State Habitat Restoration Initiative
Work Group March 25, 2009

Despite the fact that Hammonassett Beach is clearly recognized as a glacial feature and thus, fits the basic description of a coastal barrier1 below,

“A depositional geologic feature such as a bay barrier tombolo, barrier spit or barrier island that –
1.   Consists of unconsolidated sedimentary materials
2.   Is subject to wave, tidal, and wind energies
3.   Protects landward aquatic habitats from direct wave attack
4.   All associated aquatic habitats including the adjacent wetlands, marshes, estuaries inlets and near shore waters”

It has a history of sustaining actions that have diminished the ecological and habitat roles of such coastal barriers, both natural and man-made.  footnote 7 Hammonassett Beach shape and axis to curve southwest and southeast blows direct tidal and wave energy to what typically can be considered the weakest sections.2

This has been the case for the area of Hammonassett State Park – the central sections west of the new 1964 concrete pavilion.  Unfortunately, much of the previous ecology has been lost from fill operations conducted at the park since the 1920’s.  One area that has been filled is a classic feature, the so-called barrier beach inlet or Dowd’s Creek.  This is the history that Mr. Emil Miller, a state park employee, described, a seasonal or storm related event that cut or breached the beach front reopening the inlet to a salt pond/salt marsh system adjacent to a large drainage system he called Dowd’s Creek.  Mr. Stephen Leatherman of the National Park Service – Cooperative Research Unit – UMASS Amherst in a 1980 Barrier Island forum and workshop described this process at a May 1980 meeting in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

“Inlets are usually formed during a storm, primarily hurricanes because the storm surge is much higher on the average than during winter northeast storms.  It is clear that as sea level rises/islands must move landward littoral drift basically creates the barrier feature in the Northeast with the aid of activity and over wash processes.  Over wash in the last ten years has really captured our imagination, it is a phenomenon that we can go out and study since it is common occurrence on some barriers.  By comparison inlets have a frequency of occurring only one in fifty to seventy-five years along some shorelines, whereas over wash is much more prevalent, happening during most major storms.”3
What Mr. Miller described, as some of the early State Park History was two “weak” or thin sections of beach, but adjacent marshes, one at the site of Dowd’s Creek/Salt Pond and a second area just west of the 1964, so-called “New Pavilion.”  In 1971-73, a series of storms over washed these areas and a new creek threatened to become tidal until bulldozers operated by the State Park quickly closed it. Remnants of this barrier cut can still be observed today southwest of the traffic rotary circle.  The over wash at Dowd’s Creek wasn’t as severe but it did destroy what remained of the 1945-49 elevated fixed board work in front of the famous food concession pavilion.  A second section, an elevated boardwalk from the pavilion to the Dowd’s Campground beach, 60 feet landward was not impacted by these storms.   

The entire 3/8-mile section has been subjected to similar erosion type episodes.  According to Mr. Miller, the salt pond and creek was filled as trolley tracks/roadway was constructed and tides redirected to Tom’s Creek through an unnatural man-made ditch 1,400 feet west to the most easterly branch of Tom’s Creek.  As late of the 1970’s old trolley rail lines were still seen to the side of and onto a ramp in back of the “Clam Shed” pavilion.  The erosion events, according to Mr. Miller, were constant and becoming more severe.

•   1920’s - Boardwalk was fronted by some 100 to 150 feet of beach – but by 1938 only enough beach remained to support the 30-foot graduated ramps from the boardwalk.  At high tide the ramps were often near the water.  The 1983 Hurricane destroyed much of the first boardwalk and tides/waves were underneath both the beach pavilion and food pavilions but because they were elevated most of the damage escaped them.

•   The post World War II boardwalk was moved back about 50 feet closer the beach pavilion and clam shed that was so popular during the war years.  He mentioned that on weekends a line would form sometimes in the hundreds to wait for a plate of raw cherrystones clams (late 1940’s).

•   By the 1960’s, the water had come so close that those boardwalk entrance ramps were now near water – so it was decided to replace the Boardwalk again moving it closer to the clam shed (the original pavilion had already some down some years earlier) so that ramps entered directly upon the boardwalk.

•   By the 1970’s both the first boardwalk and second removed piling stumps could be seen below the high tide line – some 150 feet of beach had been lost as the beach front retreated towards what had been Dowd’s Creek/salt pond.

•   The Clam Shed was torn down during Ella Grasso’s administration – it was controversial and many newspaper accounts had people detailing stories and experiences at the clam shed – emotions of the 1940’s, the shore and seafood eating experiences.  What people didn’t realize was during storms the clam shed (it was a food concession building) and inside covered 30-foot long wood bench type picnic tables had regular storm surges pass underneath its support pilings.  It was only a matter of time before the sea claimed it.  So, to try to rebuild it was foolhardy, but people didn’t realize the past, just snap shots of past experiences.

•   In 1985, Hurricane Gloria destroyed much of platform type boardwalk that was set over the foundation pilings of the clam shed and lifeguard station park office – which had also been torn down by this time.  Some 250 feet of landward of the first boardwalk.  This storm had over wash even spread into the new paved parking lot – once site of a salt pond and possible Native American fishing camp. Some 350 feet from the regular high tide line.

Maps from the 1860’s seem to support some of the oral history from Mr. Miller.  It appears that Dowd’s Creek and what is today called Tom’s Creek, were once two separate creeks, each with its own salt marsh and drainage areas.  By the 1890’s, only one-creek remains shown, Tom’s, but a substantial salt marsh system to the east apparently without tidal access is still shown on geodesic maps (a series of 1934 aerial photographs provided by Dan Civco of the University of Connecticut details the 1934, 1951 and 1985 changes at the park).

Tim Visel Account –
The 1970’s saw several park improvements and disappointments.  When construction started on a modern parking lot, capable of holding several hundred cars; it was first thought to be a project of restoring Dowd’s Creek and salt pond!  A dredging operation dug out thousands of yards of marsh mud, shells and wood debris.  It was immediately east of the Dowd’s Creek drainage ditch and you could clearly see mollusk shells, scallop, clam and oyster shells, and at times, beach sand (T. Visel personal observation).  Mr. Emil Miller had mentioned the possibility of an old bridge as poles, wood of all types, and hundreds of old pilings were uncovered about 4 to 5 inches in diameter, but they were trucked off-site. Remnants of parking lot construction material were used to fill more salt marsh west of the lot, which prompted a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers in August of 1979.  (Response obtained August 14, 1979).

Increased Tidal Flow – Improved Salt Water Habitats

According to recent studies done at Connecticut College, any increase of tidal action could be deemed positive in terms of the Park’s original ecology – so much of the Dowd’s creek drainage, the salt pond and creek had been lost due to extensive channelization and causeway construction.4  A large salt mash/freshwater system had been filled behind and to the west of the Meigs Point double road – now replaced by a higher single lane road.  I watched the dredge operations myself, filing in the salt marsh, watching as sea gulls would swoop down and pick up live surf clams Spisula appearing at the discharge.  Today if you walk this filled section you can find old Spisula (species) surf clam shells, quahogs and conch.  The fill is fine sulfide grained gray and filled with shell hash not typical to the coarser grain “yellow sand” found on the beachfront.  On winter days these fine grain dredge sediments are easily blown across the park road.     

Although coastal barriers beaches, inlets and spits have been well recognized in the scientific literature a connection to fisheries and fisheries habitat loss has been poorly understand by the public.  Norbert P. Psuty, President of the Coastal Society in a public forum wrap up at the 1980 Barrier Island forum and workshop (Provincetown, Mass., May 28-30, 1980) challenged the scientific community to help bridge this gap of understanding to fisheries and fish habitats and barrier ecology.

“I can look to the literature that I deal with and I can see that quite a while ago, in fact around the turn of the century, there is in the literature, a lot of information from observations by scientists at the time that recognize the concept of Barrier Island recognizing the fact that they migrate, that they are dynamic.  So, we have on the order of eighty or ninety years worth of information of scientists pointing out some of the potential for change along the shoreline.  The scientists on the order hand, were apparently interested in talking to themselves, the “ivory tower” type of scientists, so this information didn’t really get into the hands of management.  The scientists weren’t interested in making management decisions and developing management plans.”

One of the organizations trying to breach this “ivory tower” concept here is Connecticut is the Connecticut Arboretum.  Dr. William Niering, one of its founders feels it important that the public learn more about the marine environments and strongly supports the concept of demonstration projects that citizens can observe – “off the shelf and into the field.”  As such, the Connecticut Arboretum at Connecticut College “spearheaded the movement to highlight the roles of tidal marshes in marine productivity through a series of bulletins originating as early as 1961.”5   Dr. Niering acknowledged that the productivity of renewable shellfish and finfish resources was not well understood as most efforts were directed toward protection and conservation and not the fisheries aspect.  Dr. Galtsoff, a noted shellfish biologist, in his meeting with state officials on May 14, 1958, urged members of the State Board of Fisheries and Game, who were interested in the fisheries aspect, to conduct such studies focusing upon the value of marshes as nursery grounds for fish populations that sustain public fisheries.  During the conference, he urged state officials to conduct a study for winter flounder.  Dr. Galtsoff stated with the “data obtained by this study, you probably can make a very good estimate of how much fish is dependent on marsh and determine the value of marsh area with reference to one particular species.” 

At that time, Mr. Lyle M. Thorpe, then Director of the Connecticut State Board of Fisheries and Game, found himself having to document the importance of salt marsh habitats to fisheries and is quoted at the May 14, 1958 conference as stating: We have been plagued with the destruction of shore marshes and we have made every effort to try to save the remnants of them by purchase and by moral persuasion of other State and Federal agencies whose case for saving a marsh, as such, as compared to turning it into dry land, the usual balancing of value seems to be the creation of some valuable piece of property as compared to a couple of ducks.6

During this period, the burden of proof, the value of the habitat seemed to rest squarely with the state in this case, the State Board of Fisheries and Game.  Some two decades later in a major policy shift for the state, the Coastal Area Management Act defined habitat values by regulation and state statute.  The value of the habitat is now defined by the state and federal agencies and any disturbance/alteration is the responsibility of the applicant to conduct any now regulated activities.

Shellfish/Finfish Habitat Associations

Such a habitat preference study would research an area of concern raised by the shellfish industry and John Baker State Department of Agriculture – Aquaculture Division (personal communications 1979).  Division Chief Baker felt that shellfish populations and habitats were important to other estuarine organisms as well particularly fish species such as back black flounder, soft shell clams, eels and blue crabs.  To him, these habitat associations needed to be researched and documented. He urged state officials to conduct such shellfish and finfish habitat studies between 1978 and 1979.

Recreational Shellfishing Opportunities

After all of Madison’s creeks and rivers were closed to direct shellfish harvesting (due to bacterial contamination of the water) much of Madison’s recreational shell fishing areas were lost.  In an effort to restore commercial fishing and to increase production from local shellfish beds the Madison Shellfish Commission approved relaying in 1978.  A comprehensive program (shellfish management plan) was adopted and relay sites designated.  The recreational relay sites were West Wharf, Middle Beach and East Wharf.  It became immediately evident, that Middle Beach was subject to storm movement of sand and could bury large amounts of relayed oysters and was finally abandoned as a relay area (depuration site).

However, continued losses of shellfish at East and West Wharfs due to burial, storms and winter freezes initiated an effort to locate a safer more accessible relay site.  This site would only have to be a conditional one – requiring water quality levels permissible for harvesting in the winter.  The idea of restoring Dowd’s Creek and small salt pond was suggested by the Intern Director as a possibility of creating such a site.  Dowd’s Creek is in a relatively undeveloped section of Hammonassett State Park, contains no home or sewer outfall contaminant potential, and has good public access and plenty of parking.  In addition to eliminating to above problems associated with present relay operations at East and West Wharfs, a creek environment would provide an opportunity for shellfish growth, spawning, recruitment, and protection from salt-water predators.  At the end of Dowd’s Creek, a small salt pond would be created, removing fill dumped along its edge that existed pre-1920.

Before conducting exhaustive water quality tests of the area, it was determined that restoration work was necessary to again sustain shellfish populations.  In fact, much of the original portion of Dowd’s Creek has been filled an only two original bends remained.  The other sections were partially and in one case totally filled with debris, glass bottles and trash and in two places broken bridge abutments blocked tidal flow.  It was, at the time, identified as mosquito breeding habitats.  Dowd’s Creek historically was an important shellfish producing area (E. Miller personal communication). 

Meetings with Dick Clifford, Director of Connecticut Parks and Recreation Department at Paul Capotosto, Division Chief of the Mosquito and Vector Section Connecticut Department of Health Services endorsed the project both as a habitat restoration/enhancement and elimination of mosquito breeding areas.  A letter of support for this project was obtained from Madison Shellfish Chairman Wiesbrock soon after those meetings.  A meeting was held at the Office of Hammonassett Park Manager (Gary Thomas) for the Madison Shellfish Commission (represented by Richard Stoecker) the Department of Health Services (Malcolm Shute) and the Madison Land Conservation Trust (represented by Fred Korsmeyer) and other interested public officials to explain the goals of the project before work commenced.

Water Quality Studies

Most shellfish conditional areas area dependant upon water quality tests after rainfalls.  A report must be completed and submitted to the Connecticut Department of Health Services (and one that will be forwarded to the F.D.A.) detailing bacterial levels during different seasons, dry and wet periods (especially after 1 inch of rain) over several seasons.  Since a winter or late fall opening would be ideal for the Madison Shellfish Commission, I suggested that sampling be concentrated during those periods.  Dowd’s Creek in is an isolated area of Hammonassett State Park and is subject to few point source discharges of bacteria (such as poorly designated or inadequate septic systems for example) water quality should be good and better during cold months with potentially less wildlife in the area.   In addition, new criteria for water testing may differentiate human pollution from livestock or poultry. The hundreds of wooden outhouses that once dominated the landscape had been replaced by modern shower/toilet facilities.       

In any case the designation of Dowd’s Creek would also require a close working relationship with the Town Sanitation officer (John Bowers) and the Madison Director of Health.  The Madison Shellfish Commission could fund the water tests through John Bowers Department (if necessary) and have samples delivered to Hartford for evaluations.  (I understand that John Bowers already sends samples to Harford on a weekly basis and it may be possible to “double up on these trips to Hartford.”)  The Madison Shellfish Commission should identify someone (or laboratory) to collect the samples of a regular basis and have them delivered to John Bowers or to Hartford.  A phone call to the State Health Department (Malcolm Shute’s office) at   566-12XX should provide information on who can collect the samples, under what supervision and what laboratories are state licensed to do the work if the Commission cannot arrange for transportation to Hartford.  Unfortunately, Malcolm Shutes’ office cannot conduct the necessary studies such as this one regarding a conditional area because of a critical shortage of staff.

Equipment Required   

It is hoped that the project will stimulate interest in the community and surrounding towns as a component to the study after year two.  In order to accomplish the long-term study volunteers would need to be utilized in periodic sampling.  This is a very small project but could provide some interesting results.  To ease monitoring studies equipment should be easily set/hauled by hand and require little maintenance.

For Fish - A hand-hauled beach or common minnow seine a circular – minnow steel trap, various size dip nets, a metal eel trap and lines to set traps, etc.

For Shellfish/worms – A clam hoe, a tree shovel (narrow blade) a clam rake – basket type.

For Crabs – A standard style green crab trap, a star style blue crab trap – both require bait and lines for setting.

For collection purposes Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program can loan out a fyke net – small mesh to sample pelagic species.  It’s set against the current ebb with a collection end bag, captured organisms will remain alive – but the net should not be allowed to “dry out.”  It’s best to sample after 60 minutes. Again, the fyke net should be listed on a DEP Research Collector’s permit.

All of the above equipment can be purchased from George W. Wilcox, Marine Supply Inc, Stonington, CT.               

Dowd’s Creek Restoration Work Plan for Determining Bio Diversity for Four Habitat Associations 

It is recognized that such research should have a multi-season/yearly duration, perhaps 5 years.  This would require volunteers from the Madison Land Trust and the Madison Shellfish Commission.  If the habitat sections were successful, a small salt pond, more resembling a bulb at the end of a long thermometer, would be created at Station #1.  This activity would consist of removing fill from the 1930’s that reduced the area of tidal salt/brackish environments.  Earlier studies have indicated and conversations with Dr. Bill Niering of Connecticut College suggested a “plug” or sill to keep the salt “pond” from drying out.  Not that would be a diminished habitat but for the species we were hopping to study some water was required and sufficient oxygen to support estuarine fishes. Some pre-channelization studies conduced by Dr. John Barclay has indicated this possibility – See Appendix #5– Soil studies, July, 1987. Retaining water was selected to help control mosquito populations.

Select and Describe Micro Habitat Types:

Aquatic Plants: establish a 40’ long X 20’ wide patch – Spartina alterniflora (species) from the bank edge. Some sections have natural dense strands of Alterniflora; they would be used for the habitat association/matrix.

Small Pebbles/Sand: establish a 40’ long x 20’ wide patch of small aggregate – pebbles sand/ the state park staff has some gravel mix; we need to remove some of the 1979 fill and replace it with this sandy gravel matrix re-deposition to the depth of 4 inches.  Rake smooth as possible.

Firm Mud/Shell:   A section of creek bottom 40’ X 20’ will be selected that is firm enough to support a thin covering of oyster shell; oyster shell will be moved from Tom’s Creek or a pile of oyster shell at Lang’s Dock in Clinton.

Rocks/Small Cobbles:  The park staff identified at Meigs Point – small cobblestones, they would be placed in a 40’ X 20’ patch.  Much evidence exists that structure creates a habitat for many organisms deemed or termed the “riffle effect” according to Dr. John Barclay.

This is the habitat mix that should show to a small extent what type of organisms inhabits which – and could shed some light on habitat associations to shore birds and larger scale restoration projects in the future. 

Questions/Responses for the Micro Habitat types –Walking Tour and Meeting June 17, 1987, Hammonassett State Park Office.

Q: Will Tidal action influence habitat associations?
R:  Survey high tide/low tide so that a comparison can be made
R:  A 1974 Yale study of Tom’s Creek showed that bottom dwellers at low tide go into a 2- to 4-hour semi-hibernated state.  At tide change, O2 levels improved and activity increase.  It is quite noticeable.
R:  Organisms can move with the tides – observations will include tidal (action)levels flow.

Q:  Will created habitat types be sufficient as natural ones?
R:  No, but the process has the opportunity to begin to define or index habitats and organism preferences – What type of habitats they prefer; color, for example may influence predation, or predator/prey relationships.  Vegetation can trap sediments (silt) and increase water temperatures.  Shells may influence pH and provide a buffer for some organisms.  Studies such as this can start to define habitat association parameters.

Q:  Manmade habitats only draw organisms away from nearby natural habitats.
R:  This is true, but for grown mobile opportunistic organisms; larval forms and bethnic organisms colonize the bottom starting one if not multiple food pathways, barnacles on rock surfaces, oyster set on shells, etc.
R:  Such would include bethnic organisms, such as softshell clams (Mya)and more worms.
R:  All four habitats will be created or mapped in the creek, will migration occur from one habitat type to another.
R:  This is expected and a buffer zone of 100 feet (approx.) will be established between each habitat type, but migration is certain to happen.
R:  Tidal creeks have a large number of organisms that feed upon small crabs and shellfish, for example, small striped bass, 6 to 8 inches have been caught in Tom’s Creek eating sand shrimp and silversides, but enter at high tide and leave by low tide.  Eels also enter the creek to feed (eel traps would be used to measure/capture them).
R:  Back Black flounder have been found among oyster shells in Tom’s Creek, so researchers might find a habitat association or preference (seasonal with water temperatures) .

Q:  After the fill has been removed from Dowd’s Creek, how quickly will the habitats be utilized.
R:  Almost immediately, a small experiment in a tidal mosquito ditch showed rapid re colonization by a great number of species (Tom’s Creek east).
R:  Bethnic organisms will hopefully begin as soon as the bottom is stabilized, barnacles, mussels may set during spawning season, etc.  Oysters may set on shells if clean and below tide line.

Q: What is the role of volunteers?
R: As part of the study/proposal that will be to produce an outline of activities that volunteers can use.
R: Some will be invited to observe during the first two years.  After the Sea Grant research is finalized, then we would look to organic long-term volunteer monitoring efforts.

Q: Will volunteers obtain funding or be paid?
R: No, it is expected that volunteers would obtain training, but not be paid. Groups are interested in volunteering to do restoration improvement projects like Trout Unlimited, who have decades of experience.  The Fish & Wildlife Duck Stamp program is very similar, working with hunters to improve / concerns duck breeding habitats.

Q: What will be the results?
R: Well, we’re not certain that will depend upon the data, but results from similar studies indicate that shellfish populations form an important part of the ecosystem.  We may see important habitat assemblages or associations between structure- oyster shells or cobblestones for example, that would be an important result or finding.
R: Certain species may associate with vegetation or cover (shale).  What we are trying to do is to create, if possible, charts that show tendencies or statistical information on habitat preference, for example, information indications that juvenile flounder have a habitat affinity for shells, clam shells or oyster shells.  If we find that 95% of the flounder surveyed were in or near shells that could provide information early life cycle habitat preferences.

Q: Distribution of findings/results?
R: We plan to write up the results of the study, positive or negative, for use in Sea Grant and extension programs.  One of the goals is to detail the project and make the information available to the public in a useable format.
R: Graduate students have provisions in the grant, the research grant support will cover the cost of publications, etc.

Q: Who is providing the grant cost?
R: A proposal has been submitted to the Connecticut Sea Grant for possible funding.  The title of the grant request is: Response of Macro Organisms to Restoration of Degraded Tidal Salt Marsh Habitats.

1)   Description Overview and History of Project – purpose/location – Tim Visel
2)   Summary fact sheet – benefits and New England examples such as Rhode Island “Pond Watchers and Martha’s Vineyard (coastal bays)
3)   Sea Grant Proposal to the National Sea Grant Office – abstract – Dr. Robert Whitlatch
4)   Letters of Support from State and Municipal Agencies/Partners
5)   Press Articles – Tour of Site – Background Details June 17, 1987 – Tim Visel
6)   Results of Analysis of Substrate Soil at Station #1, Dowd’s Creek, Madison, July 9, 1987 – Dr. John Barclay
7)   Listing of Mammals and Shore and Inland Birds Prior to Re-channeling – Dowd’s Creek Study, June 18, 1987 – Dr. John Barclay
Cool   Oxygen pH Profiles, Falling Tide, July 8, 1987, Stations 1 to 14 Time Survey – Total Distance +/- 2000 – Dr. John Barclay
9)   Madison Land Trust/Madison Shellfish Commission Study – Establishing a Habitat Index for Shellfish and Finfish Species.  Work Plan and Monitoring Outline. Tim Visel
10)   Permits and Regulatory Procedures – Paul M. Capostosto – State Permit Mosquito and Vector Section – See letter dated May 13, 1987.

Appendix #1

The Sounds Conservancy, Inc.
Gateways to Southern New England Rivers
Maritime Sciences Institute – UCONN    Groton, CT 06340
Tel (203) 443-1868


Submitted by Christopher Percy, President, The Sounds Conservancy
August, 1987- See II part ii – Exploration of feasibility and methods of establishing a statewide baseline environmental assessment, meeting of the Coastal Embayment Advisory Board, November 16, 1987 at the SNET Executive Dining Room

A)    Topographical Delineation of coastal embayments and rivers to tidewater.
B)    Analysis of Each Embayment and River.
   1.  Historical Data: Shellfish, Finfish, water quality development trends, etc.
2.  Environmental Quality: Sanitary Survey, sediment transport and core analysis, living resources (benthos, vegetation, migratory species, etc.), hydraulic survey (include. Impediments to ebb and flow), etc.
C)   Action Program for Each Embayment and River.
   1.  Restoration Goals
   2.  Methods and techniques for attaining goals.
   3.  Problems to be addressed and means to answer them.
   4.  Identification of principals to lead each action program for the embayment and river.
D)   Means to Fund Comprehensive Program.

Rekeyed from original by Susan Weber for Tim Visel – October 2012

Coastal Embayment Advisory Board
SNET Executive Dining Room
Long Wharf Maritime Center
New Haven
November 16, 1987
7:00 p.m.

I.   Discussions of the minutes of the October 27, 1987 Board meeting

II.   Discussion of concepts for improving implementation of the Coves and Embayments program.
   A.  Determination of specific charges for investigation
        i.   Modification of the rating and selection criteria.
                    ii.   Exploration of feasibility and methods of establishing a statewide baseline environmental assessment.
                    iii.     Development of a broader program constituency.

III           Other business.

IV.          Adjournment.

Appendix #2

                        May 13, 1987

Mr. Tim Visel
Marine Advisory Service
University of Connecticut/Bldg. 24
Avery Point
Groton, CT 06340

Dear Tim:

   After reviewing Dowd’s Creek, I am pleased to say that the work we discussed will be accomplished with the cooperation of the DEP crew from Hammonassett Park.  The Mosquito and Vector Section will be cleaning the marine habitat-tidal ditch, formally Dowd’s Creek, this month.
   The Mosquito and Vector Section supports your efforts to obtain Sea Grant funds to study the changes of fin-fish, shellfish and other wildlife in this restored area. 

   I look forward to working with you in the future and if you have any questions, please call me at XXX-XXXX.

Paul M. Capotosto, Chief
State of Connecticut
Dept. of Health Services Mosquito and Vector Sect.
P.O. Box 708
Madison, CT 06443

PMC: fg
150 Washington Street – Hartford, Connecticut 06106
An Equal Opportunity Employer

Appendix #3

May 13, 1987


Mr. Timothy C. Visel
Regional Marine Extension Specialist
The University of Connecticut
Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program
Avery Point Campus
Groton, Connecticut 06340

Dear Mr. Visel:

I understand that you are currently in the process of applying for Sea Grant funding for the evaluation of marine habitat restoration projects.  We are keenly interested in the viability of the marine habitat in all of our coastal state park sites and are receptive to having the Cooperative Extension Service conduct studies at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison.

You have our support in your effort.  If you are successful in this endeavor, please contact this office for future arrangements.

Sincerely yours,

Richard K. Clifford, Chief Director
Office of State Parks & Recreation

cc:  File

165 Capitol Avenue – Hartford, Connecticut 06106
An Equal Opportunity Employer


Inventory of Habitat Modifications to Tidal Inlets in the U. S. Atlantic Coast Breeding Range of the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) prior to Hurricane Sandy: Maine to the North Shore of Long Island1

Tracy Monegan Rice
Terwilliger Consulting, Inc.
May 2015


Fifty-six (56) tidal inlets were open in Connecticut prior to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, of which 47 (84%) have been stabilized with hard structures along at least one shoulder (Table 12). Of the inlets with hard structures, 15 have jetties (9 with a single jetty and 6 with dual jetties), 18 have groins, 8 have breakwaters, and 30 have revetments, seawalls and/or bulkheads. Eleven (11) inlets (20%) have been or continue to be periodically dredged for navigation or erosion control purposes. No inlets have been relocated in Connecticut. No new inlets have been confirmed to have been cut artificially, but some small boat basins with inlets could be artificial. The shoal complexes of no inlets have been mined to supply sediment for beach nourishment projects, although dredge spoil is placed on nearby beaches at some inlets. Altogether 48 of the 56 inlets (86%) have been modified in at least one way (Tables 1 and 12). At least 7 inlets or breaches have been closed artificially. Bride Lake Brook appears as a natural inlet on 1893 and 1938 maps but the tidal creek and wetlands now drain through what appears to be an armored culvert and can no longer be considered an inlet (MyTopo Online Historical Maps Collection, Google Earth 2015). Cedar Island in Clinton was separated from the mainland by a storm in 1840 and the resulting inlet was locally referred to as The Straits of Dardanelles; the inlet was artificially closed in 1883 by a dike (Patton and Kent 1992, Visel, 2009). Dowd’s Inlet would periodically open and close to a salt pond at Hammonasset Beach State Park during the late 1800s and early 1900s, but the inlet and salt pond were both filled with material during construction of the Grand Pavilion around 1964; the inlet site was later covered by a parking lot (Visel, 2009). In the early 1970s a breach opened during a storm between the former Dowd’s Inlet site and Tom’s Creek at the western end of Hammonasset Beach but was soon closed by park staff (Visel, 2009).

Appendix #5

Results of Analysis of Substitute Soil
“Black Mayonnaise”
Station No 11, Dowd’s Creek, Madison, CT
J. S. Barclay, University of Connecticut

Collection Date:
Report Date: 9 July 1987

Textured Class:          Silt Loan (“Close to Loan”)
2 stones & 1 Tablespoon other material > 2mm

Percent Composition:       Sand          32.6 %
(% dry wt, < 2mm)          Silt          51.0
Clay          16.4
Organic       8.1

Wet          Dry

pH          7.24          6.6
Conductivity    900          > 1000 (off the scale)
(9 millimeters/centimeters
.01 normal solution kcb = 140)

Calcium             > 4000       Iron    >40.0 p.p.m.
Potassium          > 600       Copper 11.4
Magnesium          > 500       Zinc    >10.0
Phosphorus          42          Mang. 1.6

Soil Test Laboratory, Plant Science Department, University of Connecticut, Storrs. X 4274 59
Appendix #6


May 12, 1987
Mr. Timothy C. Visel
The University of Connecticut
Sea Grant Cooperative Extension Service
Avery Point Campus
Groton, CT 06340

Dear Tim:

   I’ve recently been made aware of your intent to propose a study for Sea Grant funding to quantify the biotic recovery process resulting from tidal marsh restoration.

   I know you are well aware of my feelings on the subject.  While qualitative estimates of resource enhancement through habitat improvement are helpful, confirmation of the benefits gained by these efforts must come from the quantification of results.

   Your proposal is long overdue and extremely pertinent.  Presently degraded habitat does not necessarily constitute an irrevocable loss.  If you can show a quantifiable improvement in biota – either in abundance or diversity of endemic species – those of us in resource management will have an extremely useful tool to justify demands for restoration of previously degraded habitat.

   I support your efforts to secure funding and will be happy to recommend your study to the National Office if recommendations are solicited.  Please keep me informed of your progress and feel free to ask for assistance if you need it.


Eric M. Smith
Assistant Director

165 Capitol Avenue    Hartford, Connecticut 06106
An Equal Opportunity Employer


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