Pond Lily Prepared For Next Superstorm
by Allan Appel | Nov 7, 2013 4:55 pm
Posted to: Environment, West River, West Rock
A relentless six-foot slurry wall of mud and water pouring into Westville village?
It’s possible, even probable, if the Pond Lilly Dam breaches in the next super storm.
Local officials now have $661,500 to spend to make sure that post-Sandy environmental prophesy doesn’t come true for the 1790-era dam at Pond Lily Avenue near the New Haven-Woodbridge border.
The $661,500 grant from the federal Department of the Interior will enable the government to dismantle the rock dam and return the river to a natural flow both good for both fish and for flood protection.
That news emerged Thursday morning at a press conference convened at the Barnard Environmental Studies School library.
Attending were U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who helped secure the grant; officials from the New Haven Land Trust, on which property the ancient structure sits; and John Champion (pictured) of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment’s Save the Sound Program. Champion will supervise the restoration.
Also there to praise partnership advocacy across the levels of government was New Haven Mayor-Elect Toni Harp. She appeared in her capacity as state senator representing the area.
Also appearing was Woodbridge’s newly elected first selectwoman, Ellen Scalettar, a former state legislator who worked with Harp.
Scalletar brought a book of photographs (pictured) showing some of the perennial flooding from the dam after heavy rains in 1982.
“It’s part of a whole project to restore the West River, beginning with the tidal gate restoration [last year] with” money from the federal stimulus (aka American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), said Save the Sound Executive Director Curt Johnson.
Removing the dam will not only reduce the flood threat by allowing heavy waters to spread out. It will also provide fish critical to the whole Sound’s ecosystem—river herring, alewife, and eel—with an open path of more than two miles to swim upstream to ponds and areas where they can spawn in great numbers and ultimately rebuilt the fish populations in the rivers, Long Island Sound, and the Atlantic, Johnson added.
DeLauro cited a third benefit: promoting more recreational use of the Pond Lilly Nature Preserve, which continues to remain part of the New Haven Land Trust.
The funding was part of a $162 million package of grants awarded by the Department of Interior to help with Superstorm Sandy recovery and preparations to mitigate damage from future storms. Connecticut received almost $23 million.
The dam was last used to supply power to area factories, including those manufacturing axles for use in the Civil War, said Frank DeLeo, one of the Woodbridge businessmen who originally put the problem before DeLauro during her open office hours in Woodbridge back in 2007.
Assuming needed approvals come through and archeologists get in to preserve any historic artifacts, then wrecking balls should be swinging this summer, right after the fish runs, said John Champion. He said the project should take three to four months to complete.
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posted by: J.R. Logan on November 7, 2013 5:22pm
I am very excited about how project can not only improve safety and reduce flooding but significantly improve the condition of the preserve and create opportunities for environmental education. Big thank you to all the other organizations involved in moving this vision forward.
Last week the West River Watershed Coalition led a great walk on the river to draw attention to all the natural places on the upper part of the New Haven section of the West River (including Pond Lily). By my estimate 40 people took the walk. It is great to see real momentum from community groups in making the best use of the river as a natural asset.
I took some video on my phone during the walk. There is a little clip about the benefit to fish of dam removal as well as some history of the upper West River and a brief geological history of West Rock.
I also grabbed some pictures from the walk (most not in the West River Open Space leading up to the nature preserve). This faster running fresh water stream is strikingly beautiful in a different way than our other urban rivers and worthy of our protection.
J.R. Logan, President of the Board, New Haven Land Trust
Great, but along with the restoration why isn’t a more comprehensive plan for walking paths and cycling greenways being established, with ConnDOT cooperation around the parkway? We need to stop doing this work in silos. It’s as if the people in charge never read New Haven’s 2003 comprehensive plan.