A privately-owned dam that once powered a paper mill was removed from the Jeremy River in Connecticut – and for the first time in over 300 years, migratory species of fish including Atlantic salmon, sea lamprey, and eastern brook trout are able to reach their historic spawning areas.
The 1.5-acre former mill property, including the dam, was sold to the Town of Colchester by a local family for a dollar. Since the building was already partially collapsed, the Town was awarded $860,000 in state grants to demolish the structure, clean up the site, and convert the area to a riverfront park. The dam removal, which took place in 2016, was led by The Nature Conservancy, in consultation with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. It received financial support from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund, a grant program that receives technical and financial support from LISS.
Now that the dam has been demolished, 17 stream miles in the Jeremy River, Meadow Brook, and other tributaries have been reconnected to the Salmon and Connecticut Rivers – opening up nearly the entire watershed to the Sound. But there are still many more dams in existence that prevent the passage of fish from reaching their historic spawning areas, sometimes many miles upstream. It is estimated that there are between 4,000 and 5,000 dams in Connecticut alone, and the upper end of this range would translate to about one dam per square mile.