September 12, 2008

Clams Planted in Area Ponds Survive, Thrive

By Katie Mulvaney

Environmentalists hail the planting of about 200,000 hard-shell clams in Quonochontaug and Ninigret Ponds as a success that will help the water body flourish in years to come.

To celebrate that victory and the alliance of several groups banding together to protect South County's salt ponds, they are conducting an interpretive kayaking trip that will tour the spawning sanctuary on Quonochontaug Pond.

In May, thousands of quahogs were transplanted into the ponds in a joint restoration project by Save the Bay, the Salt Ponds Coalition, The Nature Conservancy and the state Department of Environmental Management.

"They're survived very well," said Chris Littlefield, The Nature Conservancy's Block Island manager. "They're in great condition and they're growing."

The quahogs -- which spawned late this summer -- will help filter the water of excess plankton and nitrogen, and improve their overall health.

Salt ponds are fed, in part, by drainage from vast watersheds, some that stretch far north of Route 1. Where salt and fresh waters meet, they provide nurseries for the tiny bait fish that fuel bass and bluefish, as well as feeding grounds for the great blue heron, terns and other migratory birds.

The quahog population has declined over the past few decades with overharvesting, siltation from cutting down trees, and from predators, Littlefield said.

The seeding of the quahogs and planting of 20,000 shoots of eelgrass are being paid for through a $63,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that The Nature Conservancy and its partners have matched.

One requirement of the grant is that the groups reach out to the community about the restoration project, Littlefield said.

The groups will host Clam Day, on the shore of Quonochontaug Pond, at 9 a.m. tomorrow. The Salt Ponds Coalition will lead an interpretive kayak trip looking at their effort. The trip will leave from the Weekapaug Yacht Club, 23 Spray Rock Rd., Westerly.

Beginning at 10 a.m., displays will be set up at the Shady Harbor parking area along the barrier beach. Representatives of the alliance will be on hand to speak about the project.

Littlefield said they are also seeking volunteers to help with the harvesting and planting of eelgrass in Quonochontaug Pond on Sept. 22-25. Anyone interested should contact him at 466-2129 or [email protected] [email protected] / (401) 277-7417

Originally published by Katie Mulvaney, Journal Staff Writer.

(c) 2008 Providence Journal. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.