Dam Removal Underway in Watertown, Connecticut

Deconstruction of the Heminway Pond Dam, Watertown, CT on July 16, 2018.

As dams age and decay, they can become public safety hazards, presenting a failure risk and flooding danger. According to American Rivers, “more than 90,000 dams in the country are no longer serving the purpose that they were built to provide decades or centuries ago.” Dam removal has increasingly become the best option for property owners who can no longer afford the rising cost of maintenance and repair work required to maintain these complex structures.

Dams can also cause environmental issues such as blocking the movement of fish and other aquatic species, inundating river habitat, impairing water quality, and altering the flow necessary to sustain river life. Removing nonfunctional, outdated dams can bring a river back to its natural state and significantly increase biodiversity for the surrounding watershed.

A view from the site of the Heminway Pond Dam removal on July 19, 2018.

Currently, work is underway in Watertown, Connecticut to remove the Heminway Pond Dam, which restricts fish passage in Steele Brook, creates a pond with increased water temperatures and high bacterial levels due to high geese populations, and encourages deposition of iron precipitate in the stream channel just downstream of the dam.

Princeton Hydro designed the engineering plans, managed permitting and is now overseeing construction for the removal project. The removal of the Heminway Pond Dam is identified as an integral component in addressing water quality impairment between the dam and Echo Lake Road.

CT DEEP recently published this piece encapsulating the Heminway Pond Dam removal project:

REMOVAL OF HEMINWAY POND DAM ON STEELE BROOK IN WATERTOWN UNDERWAY

Upstream at rock-filled breach in Heminway Pond Dam and shallow, dewatered impoundment on Steele Brook in Watertown (7-18-18)

After almost 15 years of discussion and planning with the Town of Watertown and other partners, removal of Heminway Pond Dam on Steele Brook in Watertown finally got underway in early July.  Though no longer functional, the dam and pond were originally constructed to supply water for a former thread/string mill.  The Town acquired the dam and pond from the Siemon Company, the most recent owner, in 2007 with an eye towards removing the dam, restoring the river and converting the dewatered impoundment area into a passive recreation area, including an extension of the Steele Brook Greenway.  With these goals in mind, the Town approached CT DEEP for help with removal of the dam.

As it turns out, CT DEEP, has also had a strong interest in seeing this dam removed.  It is anticipated that dam removal will improve the hydrology in this section of Steele Brook and eliminate a water quality impairment which manifests itself during hot weather and low flow conditions, as an orange-colored plume of water (due to iron precipitate) immediately downstream of the dam that impacts aquatic life.  Dam removal would also benefit fisheries by restoring stream connectivity and habitat.

Working towards these mutual goals, CT DEEP was able to provide federal CWA 319 nonpoint source grant funding to USDA NRCS to develop a watershed-based plan for Steele Brook to address nonpoint source impairments that includes a dam removal feasibility analysis for Heminway Pond Dam.  Based on the recommendations in this plan, CT DEEP subsequently provided additional 319 grant funds to the Town of Watertown to hire a consultant to develop a dam removal design package, and assist with permitting and preparation.

With the Town of Watertown as a strong and vested partner, CT DEEP is now helping this project over the finish line by providing a combination of 319 and SEP funds to accomplish the actual dam removal and restoration of Steele Brook.  Dayton Construction Company is performing the construction and Princeton Hydro is the consultant overseeing the project on behalf of the Town.  The Northwest Conservation District is also assisting with the project.  It is anticipated that the majority of the work will be completed by this Fall.  U.S. EPA, ACOE and CT DEEP have all played active roles with regard to permitting the project.

 

A view of the first notch during the Heminway Pond Dam removal on July 17, 2018.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast. Click here to read about a recent dam removal project the firm completed on the Moosup River. And, to learn more about our dam and barrier engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

Lithuania Hosts First-ever Dam Removal Workshop Feat. Princeton Hydro Expert

Lithuania Hosts its First-Ever
Dam Removal Workshop

Princeton Hydro’s Laura Wildman Invited to Present

History was recently made in Lithuania with the occurrence of the first-ever dam removal workshop held in the country. Experts throughout the world convened at the Ministry of Environment in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, to lead discussions on a variety of topics related to dam removal and river rehabilitation.  They covered the current state of affairs regarding Lithuanian dams and showcased the Dam Removal Europe (DRE) initiative, a new effort aimed at restoring rivers in Europe.

The workshop was the brainchild of Lithuanian environmental activist Karolina Gurjazkaitė. She read about the DRE campaign and was so inspired by the initiative, she contacted DRE representatives about organizing the workshop. Her goals in organizing the first-ever dam removal workshop in Lithuania were to build awareness around the importance of river restoration, call attention to the many outdated, unmaintained, and unnecessary dams throughout Lithuania, and ultimately inspire positive changes in the way of dam removals and river rehabilitation.

“I am very excited, not only about the workshop, but also about the ‘side effects’…already created,” said Karolina. “People are gaining hopes and enthusiasm… This workshop may have really powerful outcomes!”

Karolina gathered a diverse group of workshop attendees, comprised of government officials (including the Vice-Minister of Environment of Lithuania), university professors (primarily specializing in dam safety and hydropower development), local environmental advocates and NGO volunteers, researchers, and students.

Presenters during the workshop included scientists, engineers, communication experts, planners, activists, and Princeton Hydro’s New England Regional Office Director and Fisheries Engineer Laura Wildman, P.E.

Presentations covered a wide variety of topics, including:

  • Policy and current situation in Europe: Pao Fernández Garrido of World Fish Migration Foundation, Spain presented on DRE findings related to policy and the current dam removal situation in Europe.

  • Research: Rachel Bowes from Karlstad University, Sweden spoke about current state of affairs with Swedish dam removal efforts and the research they are currently carrying out.

  • Book presentation: Herman Wanningen of World Fish Migration Foundation, Netherlands presented the new book, From Sea to Source 2.0, which is focused on tackling the challenges of restoring fish migration in rivers around the world and is available for free download.

  • Technical issues: Laura Wildman, PE, who has over 20 years of experience on dam removal, presented on the most important technical aspects when carrying out a barrier demolition.

On day two of the workshop, participants were invited to take part in field visits to five dam sites. Each of the five dams all presented their own unique challenges in terms of the ability to remove them. The site visits provided a deeper look into the challenges that will need to be addressed when forging ahead with a Lithuanian river restoration initiative.

The workshop proved to be instrumental in identifying key challenges and next steps in building a successful country-wide river rehabilitation initiative. One of the key takeaways from the workshop is the need for a more robust understanding of Lithuanian-specific rules and regulations that classify a dam removal project as either viable or not viable.

“Not only has there never been a dam removal workshop held in Lithuania, to date, a dam removal has never been completed in Lithuania, at least none that have been documented and none for environmental restoration reasons,” said Laura. “It’s clear that we still have a lot to explore and discover, but I am so thrilled to have been a part of this workshop. It was a very positive first step in the right direction, and I’m looking forward to watching and helping this initiative flourish.”

To learn more about Princeton Hydro’s dam removal and river restoration initiatives, go here.

 

New Book Aims to Protect and Restore Fish Migrations

Rivers are a critical natural resource and an essential element for the health and survival of billions of people and countless species. Flourishing populations of migratory fish are an important indicator of a healthy, coastally connected river and a robust aquatic ecosystem as a whole. Migratory fish help to maintain a balanced food web, support productive river systems, and provide income for people around the world.

Yet many migratory fish species are severely threatened primarily due to man-made obstacles like dams and weirs, which disrupt the natural flow of rivers and prevent fish migration. When fish can’t reach their habitat, they can’t reproduce and maintain their populations.

Photo Credit: “From Sea to Source 2.0”

A new book, titled From Sea to Source 2.0, explores the challenges that lie behind restoration of fish migration in rivers around the world and provides a practical guide to promoting the protection and restoration of fish migration. The book is a unique collaboration of over 100 international fisheries professionals and supported by river managers, governments, research institutes and NGOs including World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy. Geared toward practitioners, but also a wonderful resource for the general public, the book is comprised of inspiring stories from nearly every continent on the planet. Click here to download it for free.

“Ultimately our ambition is to contribute in a positive way to making a better world and a positive difference for migratory fish, nature and humans on local and global levels by inspiring new initiatives for and with people all around the world,” as stated on www.fromseatosource.com. “Whether the challenge is simply to increase access to spawning habitats through connectivity improvements for salmon, or to maintain the livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people dependent upon fish and fisheries in the great rivers of Asia, Africa and South America, we hoped our book would help to achieve these goals.”

Princeton Hydro’s Dam Removal Expert Laura Wildman, P.E. and Fluvial Geomorphologist Paul Woodworth are proud contributors to the book, helping to write the dam removal chapter, creating a dam removal flow chart for the book, and providing multiple photos utilized in the book. Princeton Hydro is also listed as a contributing sponsor.

“We’re so proud to be part of this incredible project with so many partners globally,” said Wildman. “We envision that this book will provide a valuable resource and inspiration for those in countries and regions where the importance of restoring riverine connectivity is newly gaining momentum. We hope it will help emphasize the importance of finding balanced and environmentally informed solutions when proposing additional utilization of public trust resources such as rivers.”

Approximately 40% of all fish species in the world reside in freshwater ecosystems, contributing economic and ecological benefits and value. It’s critical that we support efforts that aim to protect migratory fish species, reconnect rivers, sustain fish passage, and preserve free-flowing rivers through removing unnecessary dams, reconnecting floodplains, managing our water use, and managing hydropower for sustainable rivers.

Education and awareness building are key first steps in protecting rivers. From Sea to Source 2.0 seeks to inform, educate and inspire those who want to know more about how to meet the challenges of restoring fish migration in rivers around the world.  The book is regarded as a crucial resource in the ongoing fight to protect and preserve the enormous value of our waterways.

Get your free copy here.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of a dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

Conservation Spotlight: Restoring Fish Passage on the Noroton River

For thousands of years, river herring swam from the Atlantic Ocean through the Long Island Sound and up the Noroton River to spawn each spring. Then, they returned to the ocean until the next spawning season.

Back in the 1920s, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration began connecting the country through a massive interstate highway system. As part of the infrastructure plan, hundreds of thousands of culverts were built across the U.S. with the intention of moving water quickly and efficiently. While that goal was met, many migratory fish and other aquatic organisms could not overcome the culverts’ high-velocity flows, shallow water depths, and perched outlets. This infrastructure prevented them from reaching their native migratory destinations.

By the late 1950s, Interstate 95 cut through Connecticut’s coastal rivers, and culverts were installed to convey river flows. Alewives, American Shad, Blueback Herring, and other native fish species were unable to navigate the culverts. Their populations dwindled to the point where Connecticut, along with Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, instituted moratoriums on catching and keeping the valued forage fish.

Along the Noroton River, three parallel concrete culverts, each 300-feet long, 13-feet wide and 7-feet in height were installed, completely blocking upstream fish passage.  In order to restore important fish populations and revitalize the Noroton River, Save the Sound launched a project that reopened approximately seven miles of the river, allowing migratory fish populations to safely and easily travel through the culverts to reach their original spawning habitat upstream.

The project is a collaboration among Save the Sound, Darien Land Trust, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CTDEEP), Connecticut Department of Transportation, Princeton Hydro, and other partners. For the project, Princeton Hydro lead design engineering and guided the construction of the following elements to restore upstream fish passage:

  • The installation of a concrete weir at the upstream end of the culvert to increase water depths in one culvert during low-flow periods;
  • The installation of concrete baffles to reduce flow velocities and create resting places for fish, and;
  • The installation of a naturalized, step-pool, rock ramp at the downstream end of the project to allow fish to ascend into the culvert gradually, overcoming the two-foot vertical drop present under existing conditions. The rock ramp consists of a grouted riverstone base with large grouted boulders arranged to make steps, with low-flow passage channels, between a series of pools approximately 1-foot deep that create resting places for upstream migrating fish.

Reopening river passage for migratory species will improve not only the health of the Noroton River itself, but will also benefit the overall ecosystem of Long Island Sound. Over the last decade, fish passage projects around the sound’s Connecticut and New York shores have dramatically increased freshwater spawning habitat for the foundational species whose return is restoring a more vibrant food web to the Long Island Sound.

Construction of the baffles and rock ramp were completed in time for the 2018 migratory season. Construction of the concrete weir is on temporary hold for low-flow conditions. On April 26, 2018, project partners gathered for a project celebration and the release of migratory fish by CTDEEP at an upstream location.

“It’s fascinating to feel the change in the flow patterns against your legs as you walk through the baffled culvert knowing that it will now facilitate fish passage through this restored reach,” said Princeton Hydro’s New England Regional Office Director and Water Resources and Fisheries Engineer Laura Wildman, P.E. “It is a very attractive and natural-looking fishway, and we’re proud to have created a design that fits so well into the surrounding landscape.”

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of a dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast.  To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

Princeton Hydro Dam Removal Work Featured at Brazilian Workshop

As Brazil is in the midst of a dam-building boom, scientists and engineers gathered at a workshop in Brazil to discuss, “Dam Removal & Optimizing Hydro Locations to Benefit Species Diversity in Brazil.”

Laura Wildman, P.E., Water Resources and Fisheries Engineer and Director of Princeton Hydro’s New England Regional Office, was invited to speak at the workshop. Her presentation focused on why we remove dams in the U.S. (the key drivers), how we analyze them for removal, and what we are learning through a wide diversity of completed case studies.

“It was fascinating to discuss a topic, such as the removal of dams, right as Brazil is focusing on building more hydro capacity,” said Laura. “Hopefully it is a sign that the hydro industry in Brazil, along with all the great Brazilian fisheries researchers, are quite forward thinking and are determined to maintain their country’s rich species diversity while also enhancing their energy options.”

The workshop, hosted by CEMIG and held at UFMG, involved many universities, including our workshop host Paulo Pompeu from UFLA, Dr. Paul Kemp from University of Southhampton, Dr. Jesse O’Hanley of Kent Business School, and many others.

The gathering inspired a lot of interesting dialogue around dam removal, optimizing locations for new hydro facilities, and how to best sustain connectivity and species diversity. Laura’s presentation entitled “Dam removal in the United States” along with the other conference presentations will be available on the CEMIG website soon or check back here on the Princeton Hydro blog for presentation links.