This article originally appeared as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law fact sheet series in December 2022. See the bottom of the page for updates and links for more information.
With funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) will be removing the Strong Pond Dam in Wilton, CT, opening an additional 10 miles of river habitat for migratory fish swimming from Long Island Sound.
The Strong Pond Dam, also known as the Dana Dam, is the first barrier migratory fish encounter after swimming upriver on the Norwalk River from Long Island Sound. Planning for its removal began in the 2000s.
To support this final demolition phase, Long Island Sound Study (LISS) is contributing $250,000 to the project using BIL funds. Previously the LISS awarded CT DEEP $2.2 million for dam removal in in 2020. Demolition of the dam began in 2021, starting with a repair of the lower-level outlet, which was needed to drain water from the area before the next phase of the removal could begin. Construction for the final phase to remove the dam and restore the section of the river is expected to take place between July and October 2023.
In addition to CT DEEP the project has many partners, including Trout Unlimited, the Norwalk River Watershed Initiative, and the Town of Wilton. Save the Sound is the project lead.
Improving migratory fish access to the Norwalk River is an important step to improving the health of not only the river, but Long Island Sound as a whole. Many important fish species like herring and sea lamprey have not had access to these historical spawning grounds since the construction of the Strong Pond Dam and others built on the river. Now, these species will once again have access to these spawning grounds which will help restore the ecological balance in the river and the Sound. The project also includes planting 1.5 acres of vegetation along the restored riverbank to benefit birds, mammals, amphibians, and other wildlife.
The Strong Pond Dam has been on the radar for removal for other reasons as well. The dam has created flooding issues for the surrounding area, especially during large storm events. Flooding around the dam has threatened parts of Downtown Wilton and the nearby railroad infrastructure. With the threat of increased storms brought on by climate change, the need to remove the Strong Pond Dam has greatly increased.
The Long Island Sound Study and its partners have reopened nearly 430 miles of rivers and streams for fish passage in Connecticut and New York since 1998.