Make way for trout! Discussion on undamming rivers at Wilton Library
Dams and the waterfalls they create can result in beautiful imagery, but the lasting effects dams have on an environment warrant discussion.
Such a conversation — “Undamming Our Rivers: The Return of Migratory Fish to the Norwalk River and other CT Streams” — will be offered Wednesday, May 15, 7 p.m., at Wilton Library by the Norwalk River Watershed Association (NRWA).
Association member Cathy Smith said around 20 years ago the Norwalk River Watershed Initiative started. It focused on improving the water quality of the Norwalk River as well as how to improve the ecology of the river and land around it.
“One of the reasons that dams are important to remove if they are not serving any purpose, are that they serve as major obstacles for any kind of passage by fish and other aquatic creatures,” Smith said.
To improve the river, three dams near the Long Island Sound were identified for removal. The first to come down was the Flock Process Dam in Norwalk, Smith said.
“(The dam) was put up to power a mill to create this stuff called flock, which is what they used to stuff mattresses with,” Smith said. “ That mill hadn’t been used for decades.”
With the mill closed, the 162-year-old dam’s purpose was lost. Without a purpose the Flock Process Dam risked deteriorating and becoming a potential danger, Smith said. The second dam was the Dana Dam in Wilton.
“Partly because the Flock Process Dam is down, there’s a new focus on taking the Dana Dam down as well,” Smith said.
Wilton’s Director of Environmental Affairs Mike Conklin has since proposed to the Board of Selectmen removing the dam, she said. The third and final dam is the Cannondale Dam, which has already been partly cleared.
“For decades and decades all of these fish that traditionally move upstream to spawn in fresh water haven’t been able to get to their historic spawning grounds,” Smith said.
Steve Gephard, a supervising fisheries biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, will discuss the history of fish in the Norwalk River as part of the event.
“He’s going to be talking about why it’s important to bring dams down from all different perspectives as well,” Smith said.
Gephard will also talk about the changes expected as fish are able to return to their historic spawning habitats, Smith said.
“We’re talking about trout, alewife, blueback herring and some other fish that haven’t been able to travel up the river,” Smith said. “Fish help to maintain a water quality in the river.”
Fish provide nutrients to the river through excretion, death and decay. They are also a natural food source for animals such as ospreys and otters, she said.
“Without the fish those animals have nothing to eat,” she said.
Highstead Communications Director Cheryl Daigle will also speak briefly at the event. Daigle was involved with the efforts to take the dams down on the Penobscot River in Maine. She will also discuss the importance of removing dams without a purpose.
“I think a lot of people aren’t even aware of the dams on the river and why they are important to remove if they’re not serving any purpose, ” Smith said. “I think this (event) will be a great opportunity to get out, get to know other people concerned about the environment and hear about this really interesting topic.”
To attend the free event, people may register through Wilton Library’s website, www.wiltonlibrary.org.