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Trust begins saltwater marsh restoration project

Published 4:57 pm, Thursday, May 16, 2013
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The Aspetuck Land Trust recently began the first phase of removing Phragmites australis, an invasive, non-native wetland reed, from more than 12 acres of salt marsh in the Saugatuck River estuary in downtown Westport off the King's Highway bridge.

The first part of the saltwater marsh restoration project entailed mowing 3.2 acres of invasive Phragmites australis from its 3.2-acre Taylortown Salt Marsh property, according to a news release. The mowing was done with an amphibious "Marshmaster" machine operated by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The second phase, to begin next year and take place over four years, will involve removing the reed, from an additional 9.2 acres of waterfront wetland along the river's estuary and Lees Canal.

Dense growth of the fast-growing reed, which can grow up to 12 feet tall, has resulted over time in the loss of a biologically--rich tidal marsh because the reeds block sunlight from reaching marsh soil, the release states. As a result, the germination of seeds of important native plants is prevented.

The project, also supported by a grant from the Jeniam Foundation in Newtown, is being done under an environment restoration program administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The trust is a local nonprofit land conservation organization founded in 1966 to preserve open space in the towns of Westport, Weston, Fairfield and Easton.