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The Narragansett Bay Commission Helps to Light Up the Rivers

Clear Currents paddlers in Waterplace Basin. Photo by Jen Bonin.

WaterFire Providence and the Narragansett Bay Commission have partnered to present this year’s Clear Currents community paddling event that celebrates improved water quality in RI. Clear Currents features close to 60 illuminated Japanese koi (fish) temporarily mounted on canoes and kayaks that registered participants will paddle up and down the river after sunset. The brightly colored fish will beautifully compliment the 80 wood burning braziers installed on the river! Clear Currents celebrates the cleaner water that the opening of the Narragansett Bay Commission’s Combined Sewer Overflow; an initiative that has greatly improved water quality throughout the entire bay area.

As a result, this year, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management revised shell fishing closure regulations, reversing 70 years of closures in Conditional Area B and opening Conditional Area A an estimated 85 additional days per year. The NBC’s Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Project, widely awarded as one of the most significant improvements to water quality in nation and Nitrogen Reduction Programs at the Field’s Point and Bucklin Point Wastewater Treatment Facilities have been the chief drivers of these improvements.

Less bacteria

Since CSO Phase I went on-line in 2008, there has been a dramatic decrease in bacteria levels in the Providence River. Since most of the CSOs addressed in Phase I were located in the upper Providence River area, there was an even larger decrease of 55% in bacteria levels in this area.

More beach days

When the saltwater beach closures from 2016 to the summer of 2006 are compared, two years before the tunnel opened and years of similar rainfall, there is an impressive 84% decrease in closure events and a 89% decrease in closure days.

Less nitrogen

Since 2003, the year of the Greenwich Bay Fish Kill, the NBC has reduced the seasonal total nitrogen loading from the Field’s Point and Bucklin Point facilities by 68%. The NBC is joined in the effort to reduce nitrogen by other WWTFs in the Upper Bay.

More robust seafood economy

Rhode Island’s local food economy supports more than 60,000 jobs, and the local fishing industry has been, and continues to be, a vital part of the sector. Last year, more than 100 million pounds of seafood arrived to a local port, with an export value of more than $1 billion, according to DEM. More than 28 million quahogs were harvested from Narragansett Bay and local coastal waters last year, contribut-ing some $5.5 million to the economy, according to DEM. The CSO project is overwhelmingly re-sponsible for the improvements in water quality that enables this robust economy.

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About the author

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I've worked at WaterFire Providence since 2003. For the first 9 years of my career, I worked in the Production Shop learning all of the details that go into the physical production of the event. In 2012 transitioned to the role of managing WaterFire's social media and web presence. I now head up WaterFire Providence's digital projects including, web, social, databases, and our physical IT infrastructure.

4 thoughts on “The Narragansett Bay Commission Helps to Light Up the Rivers”

  1. Hi Tim,
    I experienced Waterfire Providence, RI 5 years ago. It touched me with such intensity, that I have been looking for a perfect place to recreate it ever since. My husband and I helped build the braiziers at Waterfire Sharon, Pa a couple weeks ago. I learned so much about the massive job it is to create a Waterfire experience. I learned about how Sharon, Pa was selected because of its’ need for revitalization. Living in a small city ofHardeeville, S.Carolina, I feel hopeful that with much work, we might recreate my dream right here.

  2. Hi Tim,

    Went to the event this past Saturday and was so impressed. I saw this amazing koi fish light up the night. Is it possible to buy them?


    1. Hi Janet,

      We’re thrilled to hear that you enjoyed your experience at our WaterFire Salute to Veterans event. Unfortunately, the illuminated koi fish are not for sale. Each one is custom made and for us, they are not easily replaceable.

      All the best, Tim

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