Urban Watershed Initiative

The Urban Watershed Initiative currently has two major activities. One is a study of an urban ecosystem restoration project situated in an urban park. For nearly a century, flow in the West River, on the New Haven–West Haven border, has been regulated by tide gates that allow the outward flow of freshwater, but restrict flushing by seawater. These restrictions are being replaced by self-regulating tide gates, which close only in the rare event of potentially hazardous storm surges. As a result, the current degraded tidal freshwater marsh will evolve into a healthier salt marsh, the ecosystem type that existed there in the past. This restoration is being monitored, using a nearby, gated marsh that will not be restored. Monitored parameters are water quality, hydrology, vegetation, fish populations, bird communities, and the attitudes, values, and recreational and stewardship behaviors of people who use the park. This before-after-control-impact (BACI) experiment is almost unprecedented at this scale.

The second major activity of the Urban Watershed Initiative involves devising stormwater litter removal systems to support trash-free waters. Litter is a severe problem that degrades Long Island Sound Ecosystems in numerous ways. Marine litter has become one of the most visible and serious forms of ocean pollution and much of these materials come from land, especially urban areas. Trash washed off streets is carried by storm drains and surface streams into LIS.

We are installing three different litter traps on storm outfalls draining the three largest sewersheds (988 acres) flowing to Beaver Ponds Park at the heart of New Haven and surrounded by underserved neighborhoods. We plan to remove 46,000 lbs of trash annually and characterize it (identify and weigh) with a view to providing management recommendations to prevent it at its sources. This will restore 86 acres of ponds and wetlands along with 11,840 ft of shoreline. The three trap designs (a boom, a net, and a gabion-supported screen) will be compared to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. This information can be valuable when establishing litter removal systems at other locations along the coast. Partners in this project include the City of New Haven, faculty and students and Yale and Southern Conecticut State University, and community groups in the city.