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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) along with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) recently approved $144 million to support coastal resilience projects in 31states and U.S. territories. A total of 109 grants were awarded and will generate more than $97 million in matching funds with an expected conservation impact of $242 million.

Ducks Unlimited (DU) received around $15 million for projects in Connecticut, Louisiana and Texas from the NOAA/NFWF grant. Connecticut was the largest recipient, totaling $8.3 million for salt marsh restoration at Hammock River.

“This year’s grant slate continues our significant investments in nature-based solutions that are critical to increasing the resilience of vulnerable communities and protecting and restoring essential habitats for fish and wildlife,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The NCRF (National Coastal Resilience Fund) supports the development and implementation of sustainable designs, plans and practices that integrate natural features into successful coastal resilience outcomes and that promote adaptation and resilience to storms, floods and other coastal hazards.”

DU is partnering with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Town of Clinton, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Restoration Center on the 185-acre Hammock River project. An innovative bridge and tide gate structure will replace an outdated bridge, restoring the natural tidal ebb and flow of the river. This will improve the health of the marsh and benefit wetland-dependent wildlife.

Decades of tidal flow restriction due to the undersized bridge and failing tide gates have led to a one-foot elevation deficit in the upstream salt marsh. A sinking marsh combined with improper drainage due to the deteriorated tide gates is drowning native marsh plants and reducing nesting success for marsh birds.  The construction of a new bridge the same width as the river (70 feet), and new tide gates will regulate the flow of water from the river to the salt marsh, allowing managers to control upstream water levels.

“This project knits together community and wildlife needs through a collaborative partnership,” said DU Regional Biologist Bri Benvenuti. “The increased tidal flow and drainage will reduce the duration, frequency and extent of high-tide flooding caused by impounded upstream water. This will protect the surrounding community, allow for the sustainable management of the system for wildlife and ultimately provide the much needed first step in restoring the natural ecosystem of the Hammock River estuary for species such as the saltmarsh sparrow, Clapper rail and American black duck.”