Pawtuxet River Restoration
Warwick, Rhode Island
Center for Ecosystem Restoration
23 Brown Street, Suite 207
Wickford, RI 02852
Dedicated to the restoration of America's ecosystems and communities.
A Project of Earth Island Institute
Restoring Fish Runs and Reducing Flooding
The Pawtuxet River is the third-largest tributary of Narragansett Bay and once supported large annual runs of migratory fish such as Atlantic salmon, American shad and river herring. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Pawtuxet was harnessed for industrial power as dozens of mills were built along the river and its tributaries—each with a dam to turn a waterwheel or turbine. The dams prevented the fish from reaching their historic habitat. Atlantic salmon were locally extinct in Rhode Island by the mid-19th century, river herring by the late 19th century.
Industrial, commercial and residential development along the river created new vulnerabilities. In March, 2010, the Pawtuxet flooded catastrophically, causing millions of dollars of damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure.
Restoration of the Pawtuxet River began in 2011 with removal of Pawtuxet Falls Dam at the mouth of the river in Cranston and Warwick, R.I. The Pawtuxet Falls restoration was the largest dam removal ever undertaken in Rhode Island, restoring 7 miles of free-flowing river habitat and reducing flooding impacts along the river.
CER is now working to continue the restoration upstream, focusing on the area of the river near Pontiac Mills—the original "Fruit of the Loom" factory—in Warwick, R.I. With support from the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council and other partners, we are examining options for restoring the river ecosystem while reducing flooding vulnerabilities for homes and businesses in Warwick and West Warwick, R.I.
Check out the Project Documents page or contact us for more information!