Timeline for St. Mary's Habitat Restoration


HABITAT RESTORATION TIMELINE

June 13, 2007              DEP Permit for Dredging Issued: CTDEP COP-2007-098-SJ to the Town of Fairfield to dredge the channel using the City of Bridgeport sand spit as a staging area.  The permit required the area to be restored to its previous condition.  Prior to the dredging the sand spit had a lot of vegetation and dunes as can be seen from the background in the photo above which was taken in 2006 for one of ACCA's bird walks: 

2007-2008 Winter        The Town of Fairfield used the sand spit as a staging area for their dredging operations instead of using a barge, because it is less costly.  The heavy equipment destroyed the dunes on the sand spit.  At the end they did not restore the land to its previous condition nor did the City of Bridgeport request that they do so.  ACCA got involved to broker an agreement between the two municipalities.  Here is a photo of the damage: 

May 2008                    In May 2008, ACCA brought in Save the Sound's consultant on habitat restoration  (Dr. Richard Orson) to make recommendations on habitat repair (click here to see Orson report).  Dr. Orson reviewed 2005 aerial photos of the area and concluded that the habitat had been changed from a dune community to a mixed, flat sandy community.    Dr. Orson estimated that it would take about five years for the dune formations to reestablish themselves.  It would require bringing in sand and planting beach grass to hold the sand and to accumulate more sand as overwash occurs. 

June 2008                    Our Board Member in charge of Habitat Restoration at the  sand spit, Roger Ludwig, spoke to First Selectman Ken Flatto, who put him in touch with Richard White (Director of Public Works in Fairfield).  The Town of Fairfield accepted the recommendations of Dr. Orson and agreed to bring in one foot of fine beach sand.  They also supplied the beach grass plugs and ACCA arranged for volunteers to plant it (click here to see letter from Town of Fairfield).   We estimate that the restoration cost the Town of Fairfield about $100,000 (and that about $50,000 worth of sand and plantings were removed or destroyed since last Friday.)  Roger Ludwig also met with Charlie Carroll and there were no objections with this as long as Fairfield was paying for the restoration. 

August 2008                Roger sent at letter to Charlie Carroll (Director of Public Works and Parks) asking him to remove the picnic tables for the restoration.  He attached a copy of the letter from the Town of Fairfield (which you saw above) and Dr. Orson's report (also provided above).  The City removed the picnic tables.

Fall 2008                      Sand arrives and volunteers plant beach grass.  There is plenty of room on the sand to place blankets or chaise lounges and have a picnic. 

Spring 2009                 Volunteers plant rest of beach grass.  Paths are created so public can enjoy access to sand spit.  A good amount of sandy beach remains for sunbathers as you can see from this 2010 Google Earth photo: 

 

March 2010                Violent rain storm erodes sand spit on Sound side below where the beach grass is planted.  The beach grass prevents erosion, as seen in photo below: 

July 18, 2010               City put picnic tables back on sand spit despite ACCA's request not to do so.

July 30, 2010               Two young boys almost drowned in the waters off the sand spit (reported in the CT Post on 7/30/10 issue).

June 24, 2011              The City of Bridgeport conducted cut and fill activities some of which were below the mean high tide water mark (see #1 and #3) on the aerial views.  ACCA had a wetlands expert, Steven Danzer, Ph.D. examine the area for damage.  He found damage in three areas (shown on aerial view below):

Damage: 3 areas, contiguous

1. 306 ft x 45 ft rectangular area beach front area (1/2 the original planting zone)  wiped clean of plantings and regraded flat. They probably went about 10-15 feet seaward below the wrackline. At parts you could see where they scraped down to the original cobbly substrate that was there before the mitigation.

2. 90 ft x 40 ft area in the other half of the planted area - used for staging, vehicle turn around, and some filling. Half of this area is denuded, the rest just disturbed

3. Fill pile 26 ft x 51 ft (forgot to measure depth but probably greater than 5 feet). The fill is IN OR ADJACENT TO high salt marsh and tidal flats. Part of it is also on upland hill slope. You can see the beach grass in the fill (i.e. the fill was the scarping of the first area).

There was no notification to the community of their plans.  The City positioned this as a beach clean up and part of an effort to provide more access to the waterfront for its citizens.  They claimed no permits were needed.  They said this is park land and they can do what they want as long as they don't go into the water (a misinterpretation of the mean high tide water mark).  Adam Wood, the Mayor's Chief of Staff wrote an e-mail on Saturday, June 25, 2011 that was widely distributed (shown below) in which he stated that no more work would be done.  He repeated this to the Connecticut Post on Monday, June 27, 2011.

BEFORE AND AFTER THE CITY'S "BEACH CLEAN UP"

June 28, 2011              The City came back with a machine around 10 AM, four days after their initial work, to comb the beach and got mired in the mud on the tidal estuary side.  Kevin Zawoy from the Department of Environmental Protection arrived while the machine was still in the muck.  He wrote up several violations and ordered the City to stop work on the site other than to remove the fill that had been placed in an intertidal zone (below Mean High Tide water mark).  Some of the violations may have included the oil leaking from the machinery into the water, working below the Mean High Tide water level without a permit, placing fill below the Mean High Tide water level. 

The story appeared on Channel 8 News that evening:

http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/news/fairfield_cty/bridgeport-residents-say-city-damaged-beach?CMP=201106_emailshare

We are reprinting the e-mails from Adam Wood and Sue Brannelly below as Sue Brannelly's e-mail was already published on Len Grimaldi's blog and Adam Wood's e-mail was intended to reach a wide audience of Bridgeport citizens.  It's important for you to know the stance the City is taking on these issues.  No statement has been issued by Mayor Finch nor has he addressed this issue to date.

ADAM WOOD AND SUE BRANNELLY E-MAILS

ADAM WOOD E-MAIL

Sat 6/25/2011 1:11 PM

(Sent to many Black Rock residents - Charlie Carroll, Director of Public Works & Parks was copied in, along with the City Attorney, Mark Anastasi)

Dear concerned fellow Bridgeport residents:

I am writing this email in response to an email I received as a forward from Gail Robinson.  It has come to my attention that the Parks Department, in response to many complaints from area residents conducted a beach clean-up that has raised concerns in the area regarding environmental protection.  The information that I was provided with from the Parks Department indicated that no work at all was conducted in the water, parks department employees were very sensitive to not disturbing or harming the environment, however, some grass plantings were replanted in such a way to provide better access for residents.   Providing and restoring our city's waterfront and improving our parks is an issue that the city has made a major priority from developing a new park on the East Side along the Pequonnock River, to plans to install new sidewalks and bike paths throughout the Black Rock community and the South End, to the construction of a fishing pier in the East End,  to future plans to re-open Pleasure Beach and provide public access to the waterfront at both Steel Pointe and the Seaview Plaza. There is no additional work on the beach planned at this time, no plantings were removed from the area, and no clean up or intrusive work was conducted in the water at all.   As Councilwoman Susan Brannelly has made clear, we are happy to meet with concerned residents on this issue.  This administration is as committed to environmental protection and conservation as it is to increasing access for our city residents to the waterfront.  

On another note, if anyone has Roger Ludwig's number, please provide it to me and I will ensure that Mayor Finch reaches out to him today.

Thank you.

Adam Wood

Chief of Staff - Office of Mayor Bill Finch

 

SUE BRANNELLY E-MAIL

Sat 6/25/2011 11:15 AM

(Addressed to two members of the Black Rock community with many others copied in)

I'm sorry I'm just getting all these e-mails this morning.  I was at a wake out of town last night and am just getting to e-mails this morning.

I take full responsibility for this upset.  The clean up of the beach area occurred in response to complaints I have received about the deterioration of the park.  I have been asking the Parks Department all along to tend to all the complaints, issues, requests that have been brought to Marty and me in making St. Mary's a more enjoyable, safe, family friendly park.  The lighting, the overgrowth of all the plantings all along Gilman and Eames, the animal holes all along St. Mary's, the overgrowth of the seagrass on the beach, the debris on the beach, amoung many other issues.

To speak specifically of the beach, the complaints I receive are that the beach is neglected by the city making it unkempt, overgrown, un-walk-able and un-sit-able. This comes from complaints I have received from our neighbors that say that they used to be able to throw down a blanket and enjoy a picnic with their families there.  That is no longer the case.

I would facilitate a meeting with Charlie Carroll, the Director of the Parks Department so that your concerns can be heard.

I am going to shoot for Tuesday.  I will let you know when we have a meeting arranged.

Sue

Note:  No public forum or community meeting has yet been scheduled by City Councilwoman Sue Brannelly as of July 14, 2011.