Selectmen approve river restoration project

The Norwalk River in Cannondale. — Jeannette Ross photo
The Norwalk River in Cannondale. — Jeannette Ross photo

An environmental restoration project designed to improve the habitat of the Norwalk River surrounding Schenck’s Island, was given the thumbs up by the Board of Selectmen.
The town of Wilton, owner of the Schenck’s Island public recreation area, has partnered on the project with the Mianus Chapter of Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit organization made up primarily of anglers dedicated to freshwater stream and river conservation.
At its meeting on Monday, Feb. 4, the board authorized First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice to execute permit applications for the project to the Inland Wetlands Commission, Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), and Army Corps of Engineers.
Ben Couch of Wilton, president of the Mianus chapter, told the selectmen the Schenck’s project “has been years in the making.”
Budgeted for $95,000, the project involves re-building the deep pool habitat of the Norwalk River around Schenck’s Island that has been lost to erosion due to flash flooding. “We’ll build 20 new pools using large boulders and sections of trees. It will be a permanent fix to allow the river to heal itself over time,” said Jeff Yates, conservation chair of the Mianus chapter.
This is the first restoration project in the chapter’s master plan to restore 10 miles of the Norwalk River running from the Norwalk line to Georgetown. “Our goal over the next five to 10 years is to complete three more sections to create areas of high-quality habitat to spread throughout the stream,” Yates said.
Yates updated the board about another project at the Middlebrook School. Trout Unlimited has received an approximate $90,000 grant from DEEP to study stormwater runoff at the school and come up with engineering solutions.
Polluted stormwater runoff from Middlebrook is going into the Comstock Brook, a tributary of the Norwalk River that flows into Merwin Meadows, Yates said.
The study is being done to identify how much stormwater is draining from surfaces at the school and where it could be directed to so it does not cause flash flooding. “Engineering will begin this summer on that project,” Yates said.
Yates also updated the board on the status of three dam removals along the Norwalk River.
The Flock Dam, near Merritt 7 in Norwalk, was removed last summer. The dam’s presence caused flooding upstream and prevented migratory fish access to waters they need to reproduce.
A section of the Cannondale Dam in Wilton was also removed last summer in order to create a bypass channel to allow for fish passage.
There is also a plan in the works for dismantling the Dana Dam which is halfway between Merwin Meadows and School Road in Wilton.
The project is in the planning and fundraising phases, Yates said. Some preliminary engineering has been done and the group is working with Save the Sound for final permits and removal.
For more information about the Mianus chapter of Trout Unlimited and its Norwalk River projects, visit