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News Release
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462
For Release: September 15, 2003
Contact: Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402
Stephanie Powell 222-4700 ext. 4418

DEM, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS AND PARTNERS CELEBRATE COMPLETION OF $2.6 MILLION LONSDALE DRIVE-IN RESTORATION PROJECT

PROVIDENCE -Jan Reitsma, Director of the Department of Environmental Management, and John Paul Woodley, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, today joined federal, state and local officials to dedicate the Lonsdale Drive-In Environmental Restoration project. The site of the former outdoor drive-in movie theatre, along the Blackstone River in Lincoln, was restored into a wetland and wildlife habitat area.

Located within the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor near the Valley Falls marshes, the site is one of the most highly valued freshwater wetlands in Rhode Island. The land was used as a pasture for many years until the early 1950s, when 23 acres were paved to construct the drive-in. The theatre was closed in the early 1980s, and vestiges of the old drive-in, including two dilapidated movie screens, a 75-foot tall radio antenna and several other small structures, remained on site.

DEM purchased the property in 1998, with the intention of restoring wetlands and riparian habitat. Thirteen acres of asphalt were removed, a movie screen, speaker stands and other equipment were demolished, and about 60,000 cubic yards of material were excavated from the site. The remaining movie screen will be removed when construction of the next segment of Blackstone Valley Bikeway, which will run through the upland portion of the site from John Street to Lonsdale Avenue, gets underway this fall.

Once the land was cleared, a seven-acre wetland area consisting of 3.6 acres of emergent and open water habitat and 3.4 acres of scrub/shrub and forested wetlands was constructed, and 13 acres of upland riparian habitat were restored. Some of the excavated material was kept on site and graded to provide a natural, aesthetically pleasing landscape with rolling hills. The existing forested riparian habitat along the Blackstone River was preserved as much as possible.

The restoration plan was developed by an interdisciplinary team of engineers, hydrologists, ecologists and economists from DEM, the RI Natural Heritage Program, URI, the US Army Corps of Engineers New England District Office, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The area now provides shelter to waterfowl and habitat for declining grassland bird species. Numerous deer, foxes and coyotes have already been sighted on the premises. The scattered trees and shrubs that were planted on the property provide shelter and nesting habitat for songbirds.

"The Lonsdale Drive-In Restoration project represents a vital step in preserving and protecting important wetland and wildlife habitat areas in the Blackstone River Valley," said DEM Director Jan Reitsma. "The project has been a true collaborative effort, with many partners working together to assure its success. By working together in this joint venture, we have been able to restore a significant part of Rhode Island's natural heritage."

"As we complete this first aquatic ecosystem restoration effort within the Blackstone River Watershed, an American Heritage River, I would like to thank all of the partners who have made this effort possible," said Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), John Paul Woodley, Jr. "Our partnership is a noteworthy example of how federal, state and local governments and private agencies should work together for those they represent, creating a project team that is far more effective than any single effort could be. This, along with our other aquatic restoration efforts and our work to restore valuable habitat and coastal salt ponds, provides us great opportunities for our diverse partnership to work together and produce a benefit for the American people. This partnership is also unique in that it represents the first project in Rhode Island for the Coastal America Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership. I'm proud that the Army Corps of Engineers could be a partner in this worthwhile environmental restoration project."

Senator Jack Reed stated "There can be no greater goal than to leave the land in better shape for our children than how we inherited it. Wetlands are among the most productive habitats that we have in Rhode Island and throughout the United States. They are critical to maintaining water quality and to providing habitats to many endangered species and migratory wildlife. This site is a great tribute to the dedication, hard work and vision of many people and I congratulate them on their efforts."

Senator Lincoln Chafee said, "It's remarkable that we have reached the point where we are using the Blackstone River to create highly productive wildlife habitat. This project is a testament to the resilience of nature and an inspiration to other organizations that are engaged in the critically important work of habitat restoration across Rhode Island."

Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) Patrick Kennedy supported the Lonsdale restoration project from the House side by getting funds for the project into the Corps budget. "As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am proud to have secured nearly $1 million for the Lonsdale Drive-In Wetlands Restoration Project," he said. "This will serve to restore one of the Blackstone Valley's great environmental treasures so that wildlife can once again prosper. I am pleased to have done my part for this project and look forward to returning once the work is completed."

"This is a moment we can all take stock of our work and have pride," commented Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency's New England office. "Completing the Lonsdale wetland restoration involved the cooperation and coordinationof many different partners across the private sector and state, local and federal governments. Together, we have accomplished more than we could have alone. The work to reinvigorate this American Heritage River establishes a road map for how this sort of work can be done in other areas."

CRMC Chairman Michael Tikoian said, "The Coastal Resources Management Council is pleased to take part in this interagency effort to restore coastal habitat within Rhode Island. Lonsdale is one reminder of how interagency cooperation achieves successful environmental management."

"The Arch Chemicals and Battelle corporate contributions filled a critical funding gap that allowed this project to go forward," said Richard Kleiman, chairman of the Rhode Island Corporate Wetland Restoration Partnership (RI-CWRP) Advisory Board and vice president of ESS Group, Inc. of East Providence, one of the lead corporate partners in the RI-CWRP. "Often states cannot access federal funds because they do not have the money required to meet the local matching specifications of a particular grant program. When corporations step in, this need is met and important projects like the Lonsdale Drive-In Environmental Restoration Project can proceed."

"This restoration is especially important because it begins the compensation for wetlands impacted at the L&RR Superfund site," said Michael Bartlett, supervisor of the New England Field Office of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

The total cost of the restoration project was $2.6 million, with the Army Corps of Engineers providing 65 percent of the project cost. As part of the 35 percent non-federal sponsor share, the state's share was about $950,000, which included the value of the land and $245,128 from joint settlement funds awarded to the state and the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to compensate for the wetlands loss at the Landfill and Resource Recovery, (L&RR) Inc. Superfund Site in North Smithfield. Also, the Coastal Resources Management Council provided $152,963 for the restoration project from the Rhode Island Coastal and Estuary Habitat Restoration and Trust Fund, which is financed by a portion of the fees collected under the oil spill prevention and response statute.

The Rhode Island Corporate Wetland Restoration Partnership (RICWRP) also donated $30,000 through the corporate donations of Arch Chemicals, Inc. and Battelle, as an additional part of the state match for the restoration project. The RICWRP is a public-private partnership between Rhode Island corporations, government agencies and non-profit environmental groups working together to fund the restoration of degraded wetlands, rivers and fish and wildlife habitat throughout the Ocean State. Arch Chemicals, Inc. of East Providence and North Kingstown, and Battelle, of Columbus, OH, a national consulting company providing services in Rhode Island, are charter members of RICWRP, which was established in 2001.

Charter Environmental, Inc. of Chelsea, MA was the project contractor and DEM's Office of Planning and Development assisted the Corps in project planning and design.

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