DEM Announces Annual Reclassification of Shellfish Waters and Seasonal Closures That Take Effect at Sunrise On May 23
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DEM Announces Annual Reclassification of Shellfish Waters and Seasonal Closures That Take Effect at Sunrise On May 23

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Water Quality Improvements Lead to Reclassification of Two Areas in Newport and Westerly from Prohibited to Approved for Shellfish Harvesting

PROVIDENCE – May 22, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — The Department of Environmental Management announces that as a result of improved water quality conditions, two areas that have been closed to shellfish harvesting will now be open for shellfishing beginning this Saturday.

“These changes in shellfish classification bring good news to shellfish harvesters and those who recreate on our state’s waters,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “The improvements in water quality are a direct result of the ongoing pollution abatement programs implemented by DEM and local communities. Having clean bays, rivers and coastal waters makes Rhode Island a special place and also benefits public health, commerce, and the state’s tourism economy.”

Details of the changes are as follows:

In East Passage and Newport Harbor, the closed safety zone in the Newport Harbor area has been reduced in size by 227 acres due to the connection of the Fort Adams State Park facilities to the Newport Wastewater Treatment Facility. The following is the new description of this closure:

East Passage and Newport Harbor east of a line from the northwest corner of the concrete bulkhead at Fort Adams State Park to the Rose Island light, east of a line from the Rose Island light to the rectangular structure located on the southeast corner of Gould Island, and east of a line to the day marker at Halfway Rock, and south of a line from the day marker on Halfway Rock to the northwest corner of rock jetty formerly known as Blue and Gold Pier, located approximately 800 feet north of Greene Lane in Portsmouth.

In Quonochontaug Pond in Westerly, the small cove at the western end of the pond that was previously closed to shellfishing has re-opened due to improvements in water quality. All of Quonochontaug Pond is now approved for shellfishing. Harvesters should still be aware of existing management area restrictions in the pond. Information about these restrictions is available on DEM’s website at http://www.dem.ri.gov/pubs/regs/regs/fishwild/rimf_shell.pdf starting on page 16.

Targeted Monitoring to Assess Improvements Resulting from Public Investments in Wastewater Infrastructure

DEM, with assistance from the Narragansett Bay Commission, has begun targeted wet weather monitoring to evaluate water quality improvements resulting from completion by Narragansett Bay Commission of the Phase II CSO (Combined Sewer Overflow) improvements in the fall of 2014. The project connected additional CSO outfalls in Providence to the CSO storage tunnel, sending more combined sewage and storm water to the Fields Point Wastewater Treatment Facility for treatment. As a result of these infrastructure improvements, less combined sewage and storm water is discharged into the Woonasquatucket and Providence Rivers following rain events. DEM with its partners is assessing the Upper Narragansett Bay’s bacteria levels following rainfalls of 0.5″ to 2.5″. The monitoring will help determine if water quality conditions in the Conditional Areas “A,” “B” and the Conimicut Triangle support raising the rainfall triggers used to enact water quality-based closures of the shellfishing water, and if the size of the conditionally- approved areas can be reduced. Until sufficient data are collected to revise the triggers, DEM will continue to enact a seven-day closure of the Upper Bay Conditional Areas (Conimicut Triangle, Area A and Area B) when existing triggers are exceeded. In the interim, as conditions allow, DEM will use post-storm monitoring data and operational information to determine whether these areas can be opened earlier, as was done in late April.

Seasonal Closures Become Effective at Sunrise on Saturday, May 23

Lastly, DEM announces that seasonal shellfish closures take effect at sunrise on Saturday, May 23, 2015. The areas seasonally-closed to shellfish harvesting include waters within the following areas: Block Island (Great Salt Pond and Trims Pond), Bristol Harbor, Jamestown (Dutch Harbor area), Potter Cove (Prudence Island), and Wickford Harbor (Fishing Cove). In addition, the smaller marina closures in the south coastal ponds and the Kickemuit River also go into effect at this time. Consistent with US Food and Drug Agency requirements, DEM closes these areas to the harvesting of shellfish every year at this time due to potential water quality impacts associated with marinas and mooring fields. The seasonal closures will end at sunrise on Tuesday, October 13, 2015.

Additional information on shellfish areas is available on DEM’s website, www.dem.ri.gov, by clicking on “Shellfish Closure Maps and Info” under Timely Topics on the homepage and selecting the appropriate links. A new interactive mapping portal is now available to view maps on line. Information about shellfish classifications and the legal descriptions of all shellfish closures is available at http://www.dem.ri.gov/maps/mapfile/shellfsh.pdf or by calling DEM’s Office of Water Resources at 222-3961. Updated information on conditional closures is available by calling DEM’s shellfishing hotline at 222-2900.

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