Sacred Heart University has received more than $65,000

Sacred Heart U. Gets $65,000 to Bolster Shoreline

FAIRFIELD, Conn.—Sacred Heart University has received more than $65,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to continue the restoration of 900 linear feet of shoreline and two acres of salt marsh and oyster reef in Stratford. The project will provide habitat for fish and wildlife and create buffers from storms.

The grant supports work that Jennifer Mattei, biology professor, and a team of researchers and engineers began in 2014. This new project, “Planning for a ‘Nature Based’ Living Shoreline at the Mouth of the Housatonic River (CT),” supports the NFWF mission of “sustaining, restoring and enhancing the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats for current and future generations.”

The funding will help Mattei expand the project to aid Stratford Point marshland, which hosts coastal forests, grasslands, bluffs, dunes, intertidal flats, tidal marsh and uplands, and also provides a natural storm buffer for adjacent neighborhoods. In addition, the marshland is a vital link with other ecologically important areas, including the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge.

The marsh is currently degraded and eroding with only 10 percent of the original fringing marsh remaining that once covered nearly a mile of shoreline from Short Beach all the way around Stratford Point to the light house. With the grant, Sacred Heart will produce a permit-ready, engineered design to expand the living shoreline at Stratford Point.

Plans call for the placement of reef makers beyond the low tide line. These artificial reefs, which serve as a habitat for all types of shellfish and marine life, are made of limestone and designed similarly to natural reefs. They can survive category-five hurricane winds and waves and are available in various sizes.

“Our partners on the project include Corteva Agriscience, Audubon Connecticut and the Town of Stratford,” Mattei said. “Their support of our work demonstrates the importance of restored shellfish reefs that protect the marsh providing habitat today for a resilient tomorrow.”

Additionally, SHU will place Oyster Castles® in Stratford Point’s intertidal zone to create shellfish reefs that will lessen wave energy. These structures were created in 2007 when Allied Concrete Company of Charlottesville, VA, partnered with The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coastal Reserve and South Carolina chapters to reverse the 85% decrease in oyster populations over the prior 100 years. Oyster Castles® are concrete blocks to which oyster larvae attach and grow. Coir logs made of natural fiber, shell rolls, recycled oyster shells and marsh plantings also will be incorporated at Stratford Point to build up this new shoreline. These innovations will provide man-made, yet nature-based solutions against storms and sea-level rise.