CRWC’s restoration work includes improving fish passage and flood resiliency at “pinch points” in our rivers. These obstacles include old “deadbeat” dams with no useful purpose and undersized culverts, which block or hinder fish and other aquatic animals from accessing their entire watershed. Removing the deadbeat dams, building fish ladders at active hydro dams, and replacing culverts with larger flood and fish friendly structures allows fish to move upstream to spawn and find colder water during the warm summer months. Creating fish and aquatic animal passage helps reestablish natural cycles in rivers, allowing migratory fish, mussels, amphibians, turtles and a host of aquatic invertebrates access to critical habitat to reproduce.
There are 16 dams on the Connecticut River, 12 of which are hydropower projects, and over 1,000 smaller dams on its tributaries. Fish have been deeply impacted by centuries of dam building, particularly anadromous species like American shad, sea lamprey, blueback herring, alewives and Atlantic salmon that return from the ocean to spawn in our rivers. Migratory fish populations plummeted due to the construction of these structures, but have begun to rebound as a result of successful fish passage projects. CRWC works with private landowners, towns, energy companies, and other owners of these structures to raise money for removal and/or replacement so that our rivers are healthier for all of us to enjoy.
Where are we working now?
CRWC is pursuing 7 dam removals in New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as several culvert replacement projects. Grant applications and funding proposals are being submitted to federal and state agencies, as well as numerous Foundations. This multi-year campaign is focused on small, head-water streams within the CT River watershed where native fish are plentiful but face obstacles to moving upstream. The goal is to remove all these dams in the next 3 years as additional funding is secured.
Groton #9 Dam removal on the Wells River, Groton, VT
Culvert replacement project on Abbott Brook, Strafford, VT
The project was coordinated by the Connecticut River Watershed Council, working in partnership with the Town of Strafford, Vermont Fish & Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition to the federal and state funding support, CRWC received a grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund program.
Franconia Paper Mill Dam removal on the Wells River, Groton, VT
Our partners included the State of Vermont, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Town of Groton. Funding was provided by grants from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the State of Vermont, USFWS, Patagonia, Trout Unlimited, and American Rivers/Keurig Green Mountain Coffee.
Fish ladder on Mill Brook, Old Lyme, CT
Installation of a fish ladder at the dam impounding Rogers Lake removed the last barrier to one of Connecticut’s largest historic river herring runs. Work over the last decade has removed other downstream barriers which has allowed thousands of alewives to return to Mill Brook and spawn. The fish ladder, completed in 2013, opened hundreds of acres of historic habitat to alewives which is expected to dramatically increase the size of the run in this river. CRWC partnered with the Town of Old Lyme and the Connecticut DEEP on this project, with funding from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation.
Fishway at StanChem Dam, Berlin, CT
This project was completed in 2012 in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, Connecticut DEEP, and the StanChem facility. This is a great project for American shad, as it will restore their whole historic 16.5 mile habitat range in the Mattabesset. It is also be a boost to migrating alewife, blueback herring and sea lamprey plus a host of other aquatic species. CRWC funded and created the initial design and engineering for this structure and The Nature Conservancy finished the project up with the other partners.
Johns River dam removal, Whitefield, NH
The Johns River Rock Ramp was built in 2006. The dam at the site was partially removed during that work. A series of step weirs were put in place in order to assure fish passage. In October 2007, some of the boulders used to build the ramp had moved and exposed the downstream side of the dam, making it impassable to fish. Therefore, repair was needed to meet the objective of fish passage. Final work on the project was completed in 2011. CRWC partnered with NH Fish & Game, Trout Unlimited, and a local citizens group. Funded with support from CRWC members and New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund program.
Homestead Woolen Mills Dam removal, West Swanzey, NH
This dam is located in the Ashuelot River immediately downstream from the historic Thompson Covered Bridge. CRWC, through our NOAA River Restoration program, provided cash and encouragement to complete the dam removal. Other partners with NH DES have been the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NH Fish & Game, Fish America Foundation, NH Corporate Wetland Restoration Partnership, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the New Hampshire Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. The removal in 2010 reconnected over 27 miles of riverine habitat that will not only restore fish passage but improves aquatic habitat for a host of other aquatic species including macroinvertebrates and fresh water mussels.
Raymond Brook Dam removal, Hebron, CT
The complete removal of Raymond Brook Dam, a partially-breached, 25 foot wide barrier, has reestablished the flows on this fast-moving, coldwater stream. It’s also reconnected 41 miles of high quality habitat in the Salmon River watershed, which should benefit American eels and Atlantic salmon, as well as the river’s non-migratory fish populations and a host of other aquatic species. CRWC’s partners on the Raymond Brook Dam removal included American Rivers, CT DEEP, The Nature Conservancy, and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). This work was accomplished on privately held land in cooperation with the land’s owners.
Bronson Brook culvert replacement, Worthington, MA
In July 2007, CRWC helped the Mass. Riverways Program fund the replacement of a culvert on Bronson Brook, opening up 4.5 miles of high quality, coldwater habitat on a tributary of the East Branch of the Westfield River in Massachusetts. The problem was a perched, double-box culvert at Dingle Road, severely damaged during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. This barrier was replaced with a bottomless arch culvert designed to support movement and potential habitat for Atlantic salmon spawning further upstream. It should also benefit resident coldwater species including Eastern brook trout and black nosed dace. Our partners on the project included the Town of Worthington, USDA, MA DFW, USFWS, NOAA-American Rivers, and the Westfield River Wild and Scenic Committee.
Pinney Hollow Brook Dam removal, Plymouth, VT
Completed in September 2007, the removal of Pinney Hollow Brook dam opened up two miles of stream habitat. CRWC co-coordinated this project in partnership with the Vermont Dams Task Force and others.