For the first time in perhaps 100 years, American shad—the Connecticut state fish—river herring, and other migratory fish can move past High Pond Dam on the Mattabesset River in East Berlin, thanks to a new fishway at the dam.
The fishway—officially opened today— was built by The Nature Conservancy’s Connecticut Program in partnership with Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) with full support from the dam’s owner, StanChem, an East Berlin-based polymer company. It opens 50 miles of habitat – including tributaries to the Mattabesset – to migratory fish.
“The completion of the fishway on the Mattabesset River is the result of partners working together for the common goal of restoring critical upstream habitats for migratory fish,” said Daniel C. Esty, Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “DEEP’s monitoring station at the site will provide critical interest for DEEP’s fisheries biologists, who will collect data on the fish runs and determine the extent of fish activity over the coming years.”
“I see this project as a model for conservation because it depends on support from the worlds of business, nonprofits and government. Each played an absolutely crucial role,” said Frogard Ryan, the Conservancy’s Connecticut state director. “The project is also a reminder that conservation is made possible by people. For me, today’s celebration is a celebration not only of nature—but also of the value of our collective commitment to strengthening our stewardship of it.”
High Pond Dam creates a pond that is important for StanChem because it can be tapped as a water-supply for emergency fire suppression. A fishway—rather than dam removal—protects this safety function while also providing important ecological benefits.
“All of us at StanChem have been very supportive of this,” said StanChem President Jack Waller. “Doing our part ot help the state of Connecticut and environement is a corporate goal, and we’re thrilled to have done our part.”
The Mattabesset River is a tributary of the Connecticut River. The four-state Connecticut River watershed is one of the nation’s most obstructed river and tributary systems with more than 2,700 dams and 44,000 road/stream crossings.
The DEEP is maintaining a fish-run monitoring station at the site. During spring spawning season, the DEEP will utilize video monitoring equipment positioned in a counting house with a window into the fishway to gather information on the timing of the runs, the species using the fishway, and the number of fish passing through it. This information will be included in the Department’s weekly “No Fish Left Behind” reports, which provide information on the monitored fish runs across the state.
The $400,000 budget for construction included a $308,000 DEEP Ecosystem Management & Habitat Restoration grant and a $10,000 contribution from the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership through Northeast Utilities. Private donations to The Nature Conservancy help to cover the additional expenses.
The Northeast has some of the nation’s most fragmented river systems, with an average of seven dams in every 100 miles of river.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.