Habitat Restoration / Press Releases

Pond Lily dam removal begins – with benefits for fish and flooding

On November 5, we celebrated the official start of our Pond Lily dam removal project in New Haven with neighbors, scientists and engineers, and government partners.

Woodbridge Deputy First Select Beth Heller, Rep. Toni Walker, and Rep. Pat Dillon at Thursday's press conference.

Woodbridge Deputy First Select Beth Heller, Rep. Toni Walker, and Rep. Pat Dillon listen to other speakers at Thursday’s press conference.

New Haven, Conn. – Elected officials, conservationists, and civic groups came together in New Haven today to celebrate the beginning of work on the Pond Lily Dam removal project, located along the West River in Connecticut. The more than $800,000 project, administered by Save the Sound, a bi-state program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment and funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resource Conservation Service, will reduce downstream flood risks and restore fish passage and habitat on 2.6 stream miles and 76 acres of Konold’s Pond habitat for herring, eel, and shad.

Lori Benoit, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Lori Benoit of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

“This project represents a huge win for the environment and for the local community through removal of a deteriorating dam that no longer has a useful purpose. Removing the dam and restoring natural river flows will allow the passage of migratory fish upstream, improve water quality, and prevent a potentially catastrophic failure of an old dam that’s in very bad condition. Many people, bridges, and buildings downstream from this site will be safer once this structure is out,” said Lori Benoit, fish and wildlife biologist for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

CFE/Save the Sound's John Champion and Gwen Macdonald, who directs the Pond Lily dam removal project.

CFE/Save the Sound’s John Champion and Gwen Macdonald, who directs the Pond Lily dam removal project.

“We’re pleased to be partnering in such important work. This project is not only reconnecting the river, it’s also bringing together the community,” says Gwen Macdonald, director of habitat restoration for CFE/Save the Sound. “This project builds on our successful restoration of 80 acres of marsh habitat in West River Memorial Park. Since then, the community has come together and developed the West River Watershed Management Plan, which identifies comprehensive solutions to the problems that face an urban river. Over time, we expect this dam removal to increase the ecological function and vibrancy of the river. Visitors to the Nature Preserve will be able to see the importance of removing barriers in rivers and ultimately feel a connection with their local watershed.”

Mayor Toni Harp of New Haven

Mayor Toni Harp of New Haven

“As more frequent, more severe weather becomes the new normal, we must evaluate our infrastructure to ensure our communities are prepared to withstand and mitigate the devastating effects of flooding. Removal of the Pond Lily Dam will provide much needed and long awaited protection to Westville businesses and residents, who have been plagued by repeated flooding,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal. “I am proud to support these efforts by Connecticut Fund For the Environment, Save the Sound, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and I will continue to fight for federal funding for projects to ensure our state’s infrastructure and ecosystems are prepared for the weather we now know to expect.”

“I couldn’t be happier that the post-Sandy relief funds we helped secure made this project a reality. After decades of waiting, the families and businesses in the Westville Village District can finally let out one big sigh of relief. Removing the Pond Lily Dam will comfort residents who have been threatened with flooding and reopen nearly three miles along the river, restoring fish populations in our rivers and Long Island Sound,” said Senator Chris Murphy.

Curt Johnson, executive director of CFE's Save the Sound program, talks about the power of nature to heal itself when we give it a chance.

Curt Johnson, executive director of CFE’s Save the Sound program, talks about the power of nature to heal itself when we give it a chance.

The risk of major flooding from a dam failure at Pond Lily has been a safety and economic concern for Westville Village District residents and business owners for many years. Removal of the dam protects nearby urban communities for the future, enhances fish passage for both migratory and river-dwelling species, and will create more than a dozen local construction jobs.

Justin Elicker of the New Haven Land Trust

Justin Elicker of the New Haven Land Trust

“We are thrilled about the dam removal both because of the resulting ecological benefits and because it will increase open space and trail access so more New Haven residents can enjoy this beautiful natural landscape,” says Justin Elicker, executive director of the New Haven Land Trust. After dam removal, the New Haven Land Trust will seek to expand access and trails in the Nature Preserve in which the dam is located. This project has already involved many local groups, led by the West River Watershed Coalition, who are committed to providing accessible, public and urban open space.

Riverkeepers David Burgess and Peter Davis have been cleaning up and stewarding the West River for nearly three decades.

Riverkeepers David Burgess and Peter Davis have been cleaning up and stewarding New Haven’s rivers and streams for nearly three decades.

Other partners in the dam removal include the dam owner New Haven Land Trust (NHLT), Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP), City of New Haven, Town of Woodbridge, Solar Youth, Common Ground High School, Trout Unlimited, Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE), National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership. These organizations are working together to educate and involve the nearby surrounding communities in the benefits of dam removal.

To read more about the Pond Lily dam removal project, click here. To view photos of Pond Lily dam prior to removal, click here. To learn more about other U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Hurricane Sandy recovery and resilience projects, visit the Hurricane Sandy Recovery website. CFE/Save the Sound and USFWS are also partnering on a second dam removal project at Hyde Pond in Mystic, Conn. which will be deconstructed starting later in November.

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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen in the Northeast region, visit www.fws.gov/northeast. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.

Save the Sound is a bi-state program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment with an established 40-year track record of restoring and protecting the waters and shorelines of the Sound. From its offices in New Haven and Mamaroneck, Save the Sound works for a cleaner, healthier, and more vibrant Long Island Sound where humans and marine life can prosper year-round. Our success is based on scientific knowledge, legal expertise, and thousands of ordinary people teaming up achieve results that benefit our environment for current and future generations. Visit www.savethesound.org for more information.

3 thoughts on “Pond Lily dam removal begins – with benefits for fish and flooding

  1. Pingback: A Time to Be Grateful: A Healthy Sound for 2016 | Green Cities Blue Waters

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