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80-year-old dam in southwest CT will soon be destroyed to restore part of Norwalk River

The Dana dam, photographed in 2021, is set to be demolished.
Provided photograph
Save the Sound
The Dana dam, photographed in 2021, is set to be demolished to improve the health of the Norwalk River.

An 80-year-old dam on the Norwalk River in Wilton will soon be demolished in an effort by conservationists to improve the river’s health and its connection to Long Island Sound.

Dana Dam, or Strong Pond Dam, is among the thousands of barriers disrupting the flow of rivers and streams in Connecticut.

Dams not only cause poor water quality and flood risks, said Alex Krofta, ecological restoration project manager with Save the Sound, but they can also prevent the migration of blueback herring, eel, and lamprey.

“These are fish that spend part of their life in the oceans and part of their life in freshwater. And they need to move to complete their life cycle,” Krofta said. “By creating dams that block their spawning habitat, we've really decimated these populations of fish.”

The dam’s concrete waterfall will be made into a stream, with vegetation planted on the floodplains previously covered with water.

Unlike dams made for power mills, Dana Dam was installed by Charles Dana to create an ice-skating and swimming pond for his children, according to Save the Sound. For years, environmental groups have dismantled dams to restore the natural flow of rivers and streams across Connecticut.

“Most no longer serve a purpose and their lack of maintenance results in an increased risk of flooding due to dam breach or failure,” said Anthony Allen, Save the Sound’s restoration strategy director, in a statement.

About 80 trees at Merwin Meadows Park will be cut down to allow construction crews to access the site. Krofta said that number will likely decrease after the final walk-through. He said tree removal is an unfortunate but necessary part of the project and for every tree cut down, two native saplings will be planted with help from partner Trout Unlimited.

“We think this temporary loss of trees is ... outweighed by a system-wide benefit through this restoration project,” Krofta said.

Trees will be cut by the beginning of April to avoid possibly disrupting the roosting season for the endangered northern long-eared bat. Further construction and demolition will happen this summer, with completion expected by fall 2023.

As Connecticut Public's state government reporter, Michayla focuses on how policy decisions directly impact the state’s communities and livelihoods. She has been with Connecticut Public since February 2022, and before that was a producer and host for audio news outlets around New York state. When not on deadline, Michayla is probably outside with her rescue dog, Elphie. Thoughts? Jokes? Tips? Email msavitt@ctpublic.org.

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