Press Release: Save the Sound receives Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to support removal of Dana Dam, continued site management

Save the Sound has been awarded $250,000 from President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support the final phase of the removal of Dana Dam (aka Strong Pond Dam) in Wilton. The funding was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Long Island Sound Study and will be administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP). The funds will also support post-removal adaptive management at the site, continued community engagement, and reconnaissance of the next upstream barriers in the Norwalk River watershed.

“A dam removal project is not complete without critical post-removal assessments to document success,” said Laura Wildman, vice president of ecological restoration at Save the Sound. “We will be looking for target fish species using newly restored upstream habitats. We also check that native vegetation has been established and is providing needed ground cover for site stability and wildlife wetland and terrestrial habitats. These observations will help us understand how the river is responding to dam removal and can be applied to future restoration projects.” 

Dana Dam was built in the 1940s by Charles Dana to create an ice-skating pond for his grandchildren. However, Dana Dam also created a slow-moving and warm impoundment, slowed water flow throughout, and submerged the river’s natural floodplain. The dam blocked access to the upper reaches of the Norwalk River for diadromous fish such as American eel, river herring, and American shad that travel from saltwater to freshwater to reproduce.  

In September 2023, after years of planning and months of site preparation, Save the Sound and the Town of Wilton finally removed the physical dam structure. This represents a major step towards restoring the river’s function and increasing ecosystem and community resilience. In 2024, Save the Sound will begin documenting the regrowth of native vegetation from seeds long submerged in the impounded waters behind Dana Dam, as well as the passage of migratory and resident fish in this portion of the Norwalk River. The grant will also support site inspections to identify and address any unexpected changes to constructed features. 

“Dam removals like that of Dana Dam are particularly exciting to watch as they transform an impounded portion of a river back to its free-flowing state,” said Paul Woodworth, ecological restoration senior project manager at Save the Sound. “We are excited to watch the migratory fish runs in the coming years, and expect to see greater returns of key species, which will support both marine and inland food webs. There is a cascade of positive effects, some instantaneous and others taking years, that make these projects very satisfying.” 

Alewife, a species of river herring, will be monitored in future migratory fish runs through the Norwalk River.

“I have high hopes for the fish of the Norwalk River now that Dana Dam has been removed,” said Jon Vander Werff, Save the Sound’s fish biologist. “Not only do migratory fish have access to more spawning habitat, but fish that live in the river full-time now have more access to diverse habitat as well.” 

Gerald Berrafati and Jeff Yates of Trout Unlimited stand upstream of the restored site.

In time, the former site of Dana Dam will be host to a biodiverse ecosystem of native flora and fauna, and funds from this grant will support multiple volunteer planting events and site tours to connect the community with this newly restored section of the Norwalk River. Stay tuned for these in-person events in the new year.  

Artist rendering of what the Dana Dam site may look like in the future.

Funding for prior phases of construction was provided by the EPA through the Long Island Sound Study and administered by CT DEEP. Additional funding was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s National Fish Passage Program and Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership, as well as several local foundations and through the generosity of many individual donors. 


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