October 5, 2008

Conference to Celebrate Estuary Restoration ; Lecture: America Before Columbus

For more than a decade, efforts have been under way to not only reduce pollution in Rhode Island, but to reverse its effects by restoring salt marshes, building fish ladders around dams and planting eelgrass along the bottom of Narragansett Bay.

On Saturday, some 800 scientists, environmentalists and government officials are scheduled to arrive for a four-day conference at the Rhode Island Convention Center that will celebrate and study efforts to restore estuaries in Rhode Island and across the country.

The conference is sponsored by a group called Restore America's Estuaries, which was formed by Rhode Island's Save the Bay and similar groups around the country, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Galveston Bay Foundation, the Save San Francisco Bay Foundation and People for Puget Sound.

The group has held conferences every other year in Baltimore, Seattle and New Orleans before Save the Bay and others encouraged it to meet in Rhode Island this year.

"We're very proud we brought them here," said Curt Spalding, former executive director of Save the Bay, who is working to organize the conference. "We know it's a tough time. But attendance is still good. The conference is the flower on the plant of all the restoration work."

Spalding said it is rewarding to see much of the state's congressional delegation agree to attend. That wasn't the case at other conference sites.

Also, field trips are planned to showcase some of Rhode Island's big success stories in restoration, such as Hundred Acre Cove and the Walker Farm Marsh in Barrington, the Ninigret Pond dredging project and the Galilee Salt Marsh.

Attendees will also travel to nearby out-of-state projects such as Barn Island in Stonington, Conn., Town Brook in Plymouth, Mass., and Blackstone River sites in Massachusetts.

Spalding said millions of dollars are being spent in Rhode Island by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which are working with local governments and nonprofit and community organizations.

Spalding said restoration efforts elsewhere have been large- scale. In Rhode Island, with its urban environment, the projects tend to be smaller, but still important. And here, thousands of people from the communities are involved.

A big theme in this year's conference is protecting estuaries from the impacts of climate change.

Speakers include Nick Spitzer, a folklorist who hosts public radio's American Routes, journalist Michael Grunwald, author of the acclaimed The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise, and Eric Higgs, author of Nature by Design: People, Natural Process, and Ecological Restoration.

The conference is open to the public, but there are fees.

To get more information, or to register for the conference, go to: www.estuaries.org.

Charles Mann, journalist and author of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, will discuss how humans transformed the New World before the arrival of Europeans, as part of the University of Rhode Island's annual fall Honors Colloquium. The event is on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Edwards Auditorium on the University of Rhode Island's Kingston Campus.

A correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, Science and Wired, Mann has written about the intersection of science, technology and commerce for many newspapers and magazines, including Forbes, Smithsonian, Paris-Match and The Washington Post.

Mann's book, 1491, won a National Academy of Sciences' award as the best book of the year.

The 2008 Honors Colloquium, People and Planet: Global Environmental Change, explores human-caused global change, its consequences and potential responses through lectures, films, exhibits and a cabaret.

Weekly events run through Dec. 9.

Narrow River meeting Tuesday

The Narrow River Preservation Association's 38th annual meeting will be Tuesday at the Coastal Institute Building, Hazard Room, at URI Bay Campus, Ferry Road, Narragansett. Refreshments will be available at 7 p.m. with the program at 7:30.

This year's meeting will feature a new format that will encourage informal discussions between members of the community and Narrow River Watershed experts. Posters, maps, and slide shows will be on display. There will be an opportunity to learn the status of Narrow River projects and plans and to ask questions on a one-to-one basis.

The newly proposed board of directors will attend, and awards will be given to people who have dedicated their time to preserving the river. The meeting will conclude with the annual raffle drawing of this year's kayak winner.

Mount Hope Bay pollution targeted

The state Department of Environmental Management and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection will host a public meeting in Tiverton on Thursday to discuss water-quality assessment and restoration studies in Mount Hope Bay and the Kickemuit River estuary.

Staff from the City of Fall River will also present information at the meeting regarding the progress of the Fall River combined sewer overflow abatement project.

At the meeting, staff from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection will discuss efforts to improve water quality in Mount Hope Bay. The department is developing water quality restoration plans for bacteria and nitrogen that will involve additional data collection and analysis.

Both states will use the information gathered from these studies, combined with previously collected data, to develop pollutant- specific water-quality restoration studies.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Great Room of the Villages on Mount Hope Bay, 120 Schooner Drive, Tiverton. Directions may be found at www.thevillagesonmounthopebay.com/directions.html. For more information, contact Brian Zalewsky at (401) 222-4700, ext. 7145, or by e-mail at [email protected]

Poster contest focuses on energy

Energy Solutions of the Future is the theme of a poster contest for students in kindergarten through grade 12 sponsored by the University of Rhode Island's Energy Center.

Posters can be made using any medium on paper as large as 24 by 36 inches, and they will be judged by an impartial panel on the basis of the poster's message, originality and design. First-, second- and third-place prizes, including renewable energy toys and iPod Shuffles, will be awarded in four age categories.

All of the winning entries, including honorable mention winners, will be exhibited at the Rhode Island Energy Expo on Nov. 16. The Energy Expo will offer innovative and practical strategies to help Rhode Islanders deal with rising energy costs.

Any Rhode Island student in kindergarten through grade 12 is eligible to enter the contest. All entries must be delivered to the URI Outreach Center or postmarked by Oct. 23. For complete contest rules visit www.rienergyexpo.org, send e-mail to [email protected], or call (401) 874-4453.

The Environmental Journal is a listing of brief news items about the actions of individuals, organizations and businesses that affect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the landscape that surrounds us. If you have comments or suggestions, please contact environment reporter Peter B. Lord at (401) 277-8036, or by e-mail at [email protected] or by writing him, care of The Providence Journal, 75 Fountain St., Providence, RI 02902.

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