Formerly the CT River Watershed Council|

Reconnecting Habitat for Fish

Home|Our Work|Reconnecting Habitat for Fish

Groton Day 1 029CRC’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. CRC 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?

CRC 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.

Past Successes:

Culvert replacement on the Oliverian Brook, Haverhill, NH

CRC worked with the Town of Haverhill and other partners in 2016 to replace two aging, undersized and perched culverts that were blocking fish passage. The projects on Page Rd. and Stonecrest Dr. open more than twenty miles of stream habitat, benefiting brook trout and other aquatic species. Replacing these culverts has also reduced the risk of flooding and infrastructure damage. Both projects were coordinated by CRC River Steward Ron Rhodes, including project oversight and contracting with Trout Unlimited and Horizons Inc. for engineering design as well as Chief Bogie Excavating for construction. CRC received grants from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the State of New Hampshire Moose Plate program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Additional funding was provided by Town of Haverhill and the Greater Upper Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited via an Embrace-A-Stream grant.



Groton #9 Dam removal on the Wells River, Groton, VT

CRC and our partners removed this deadbeat dam in summer 2015. This dam was built in the early 1900’s for hydro power, but was wiped out by the 1927 flood and never used again. So, for nearly 90 years, this old dam was blocking fish passage and sediment transfer, as well as being a safety hazard for river users (fishers, paddlers and swimmers). CRC secured grant funding and private donations (including from the dam owner – Green Mountain Power), worked with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on engineering, and hired a local contractor to remove nearly 600 tons of concrete, metal and debris. Fish passage was achieved immediately when one small fish found the flowing water during deconstruction, and a nice sized trout was spooked upstream during post-construction monitoring. This project opened up 34 miles of river habitat for fish.

Culvert replacement on Abbott Brook, Strafford, VT

The replacement of this culvert on Abbott Brook in Strafford, VT will improve flood resiliency and allow for fish passage into the Podunk State Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The project, completed in 2015, opens five miles of stream habitat to the WMA, benefiting brook trout and other aquatic species.

The project was coordinated by CRC, 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, CRC received a grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund program.

pics 042

Franconia Paper Mill Dam removal on the Wells River, Groton, VT

Removing the partially breached Franconia Paper Mill dam restored the natural river habitat to free-flowing conditions, improved water quality and sediment transport, restored the river channel, increased and improved fish and wildlife access to spawning habitat and cold water refuge for resident Eastern brook trout. Removal of this dam in 2014 has opened roughly 8 miles of stream.

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. CRC 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. CRC 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. CRC partnered with NH Fish & Game, Trout Unlimited, and a local citizens group. Funded with support from CRC 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. CRC, 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. CRC’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, CRC 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. CRC co-coordinated this project in partnership with the Vermont Dams Task Force and others.