Directly Connecting Green Hill Pond with the Ocean

Opening up Green Hill Pond to the ocean is not a new idea. In 1971, the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife (the predecessor of DEM) evaluated the idea of constructing a permanent 50-foot wide open breachway to improve water quality and allow recreational boating direct access to the ocean. The main problem they identified was that the tidal amplitude would increase from roughly 6 inches to nearly 3 feet. As a result, they concluded that “the pond area would be reduced to a tidal muck flat of little value” during low tide. Their full report can be found HERE.

In 2011 the engineering consulting firm Woodard and Curran (W&C) proposed a conceptual breachway design consisting of a set of three, 700-foot-long box culverts, covered by a bridge deck for pedestrian access. Their full report can be found HERE. This proposed breachway would be located on a parcel of land owned by DEM. With such a breachway in place, W&C estimated that nitrogen levels would be reduced by 80%. However, unlike the 1971 report, there was no attempt by W&C to evaluate the environmental impact of their proposal. Indeed, there is so much uncertainty about its impact that W&C recommended constructing first a small experimental temporary breachway to be able to evaluate the feasibility of a full scale breachway, especially regarding its impact on the pond’s tidal amplitude, water quality, biology, rate of siltation, and flooding risk. In addition, W&C noted that there would be a considerable number of federal, state, and local regulatory approvals required for such a project, with no guarantee of unanimous consent. In discussing this idea with local landowners, FGHP has found considerable opposition to the idea of essentially digging a 24-foot-wide trench through unspoiled natural beach dunes. Access rights to the project area could be a problem since virtually all the land around the DEM parcel and the nearest road are privately owned. Finally, deed restrictions on the permitted use of the DEM land prohibit any changes to the land, including the construction of a breachway.


Over the years, FGHP has heard and evaluated several variations of the basic breachway idea. For example, one idea was to dig a temporary trench and, after it silts up, dig it again. While this variation might make it easier to secure CRMC approval, all of the other challenges remain with one additional one—the requirement to repeat this process every few months indefinitely.

There is little doubt that a direct connection with the ocean will likely have the biggest and fastest impact on improving water quality. Unfortunately, for all the options considered so far, the challenges and risks are substantial. Nonetheless, FGHP remains open to considering some type of direct connection to the ocean that can feasibly be implemented and would be supported by all the key stakeholders.