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Woonasquatucket River Riparian Buffer Project

The protection, conservation, and restoration of forested riparian areas along rivers and streams can offer a wide range of potential benefits. These benefits include ecological enhancements such as improved water quality, greater wildlife diversity, and a more natural flow regime, as well social benefits such as educational opportunities, enhanced aesthetics, reduced flooding, a higher quality of life for residents, and increased civic pride.

Much of the natural riparian forestland along the Woonasquatucket River has been significantly altered by human activity. Currently only 19 percent of the river corridor exhibits an existing riparian forest buffer. Most of this existing buffer is located in the upper portions of the watershed with only small fragments of forested riparian areas found in the middle and lower portions of the watershed. Commonly observed riparian buffer impacts include removal of forest vegetation and ongoing mowing, impervious surfaces directly adjacent to the river (including roads, roofs, and parking lots), invasive exotic species, channelization and floodwalls that hydrologically segregate the river from historic riparian buffers and floodplains, and storm drains that bypass vegetated buffer areas.

buffer in urban settingThis Project was created by Kleinschmidt Associates and developed for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), Sustainable Watersheds Office, and the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC) using funds provided by the USDA Forest Service (USFS). Its goal was to create a comprehensive inventory of potential riparian buffer restoration sites along the Woonasquatucket River to examine opportunities for improving water quality and enhancing other important ecological and social values within the watershed through improved forest management and stewardship. Potential restoration sites were identified through a site nomination process and field reconnaissance. A total of 36 candidate riparian buffer restoration sites were evaluated.