Late 2016 more Reef Balls hit the coast of CT at the site of a pilot project designed for the accretion of soil and protection of marsh grasses. The pilot project was successful and now, the protected area has increased. This is a great example of how other estuaries in the NE could protect area’s from erosion,
The Reef Balls were constructed at Reef Innovations site in Sarasota, FL and trucked to CT. There was some discussion of building in CT but the aggregate would be garnite instead of the Florida limerock used in the pilot project. Observation in Jim McFarlane’s surveys of sites from CT to LA showed few encrusting species on granite. McFarlane’s belief was that Reef Balls more resembled a natural oyster reef structure when made with materials from Sarasota. The practice of constructing Reef Balls with local materials in one used around the world, so it would be easy for someone to do a study in about every ecosystem you can imagine. I look forward to someone doing some surveys of the Stratford Point site during high tides, as an evaluation of plagic species visiting the area.
This article was retrieved from the CT Post Dec 2017 https://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Creating-a-living-shoreline-with-Reef-Balls-10778523.php#item-38492 Photo comments were added by J.McFarlane
Stratford Point Reef Balls Added 2016 Photo: Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media
STRATFORD — Jennifer Mattei crouched along the low-tide mark at Stratford Point to scoop up a mound of inky gray sediment in the palm of her hand.
It is proof, the Sacred Heart University biology professor said, that her Reef Balls are working to restore the beach.
Her meandering rows of thousand-pound, dome-shaped cement balls create an artificial reef. Each ball is punctuated with holes that allow the tide and small sea creatures through. Over the past couple, years the reef, planted just off shore, has begun to not only stop erosion but reverse it — enough for Mattei to win another grant to expand her work.
“It’s working beautifully,” Mattei said Tuesday of what many in the field call a “living shoreline.”
A swath of sediment estimated at four feet deep and 100 feet wide has disappeared along the of shoreline over the past three decades. The property is now owned by the DuPont Corp. and managed by the Audubon Society.
So far, surveyors periodically measuring the terrain estimate sediment about 12 inches thick has re-accumulated over the past two years behind the barrier.
The just-announced $115,198 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Long Island Sound Futures Fundwill be used this summer, with the aid of a team of Sacred Heart students, to plant thousands of marsh grass plugs along the shoreline in front of the barrier.
The pilot study began with 64 Reef Balls. This November, another 327 were added with the help of DuPont and the Army Corps of Engineers. Mattei checks on them periodically, searching for signs of algae, barnacles and any oysters that now call them home.
At one time, reefs made of clinging oysters protected the shoreline. They disappeared centuries ago.
It was the oysters, the horseshoe crabs, the piping plover and all other species, Mattei said, that got her into this kind of research. Those creatures depend on the shoreline and their access has been compromised by decades of beach erosion and climate change.
“The ocean level is rising,” Mattei said. “Storm frequency is increasing. Global climate change is real.”
Seawalls don’t help. They hurt. When waves crash against them, sediment is pulled away from the shore and sea creatures lose access to the shore.
Mattei hit upon the idea of Reef Balls, which got their start in Florida to protect coral. The are made with a special cement formula that resists erosion and heavy enough to withstand hurricanes. The holes are positioned so that when a wave hits, the water shoots through more gently.
Although used worldwide, they are rare in Connecticut. Scientists like Juliana Barrett, with the University of Connecticut Center for Land Use Education and Research hopes that will soon change.
Barrett said state law now severely restricts the construction of traditional seawalls. Mattei’s project is a great example of an alternative.
“What she is doing is really, really important,” Barrett, said. “She is creating a living shoreline I hope will be replicated. She has the most extensive project going on.”
In addition to rebuilding dunes and salt marsh grass, Mattei said she also has her eye on sediment she expects to be dredged next fall from the nearby boat channel at the mouth of the Housatonic River, on the opposite end of Stratford’s beach front.
Although some is earmarked for Hammonasett Beach in Madison, Mattei said, some directed her way would speed up her stabilization project.
“I hope this can become a demonstration site for what to do,” Mattei said.
Stratford Point, erosion of the peat and marsh grasses. The new Reef Ball Breakwater will stop the erosion allowing marsh grass with roots up to 9ft deep to hold the soil in place. J. McFarlane Photo: Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media
Original Reef Balls are darker toward the shoreline. Brighter Balls are ones placed in 2016
Interesting arrangement, as we learn more about the accretions of sand we found a spit forming at the inside of arcs as is visible on the original Reef Ball Breakwater at the far left. J.McFarlane Photo: Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media