Press Release: Save the Sound statement on dangerous breach of Fitchville Pond Dam

Time to “protect people living in the shadow of dangerous dams”

Today residents of Norwich and Bozrah sheltered in a middle school for several hours. Homes and businesses along the Yantic River, from the Bozrah town line to the Uncas Falls in downtown Norwich, spent the afternoon under a mandatory evacuation order due to a partial breach of Fitchville Pond Dam and resulting high risk of flash flooding.

Dams in Connecticut are aging, and many are unsafe and have outlived their original purpose. The Fitchville Pond Dam is classified as a high-hazard dam, meaning that according to Connecticut’s Dam Safety Division the dam’s failure “would cause probable loss of life; major damage to habitable structures, residences, hospitals, convalescent homes, schools, etc.; damage to main highways; or great economic loss.”

“We’re seeing today the very real human cost of failure to maintain our dams,” said Laura Wildman, vice president for ecological restoration at Save the Sound. “Connecticut Dam Safety Division requires that dam owners inspect their dams every two years and maintain high-hazard dams in good condition in order to protect the public from the type of disaster now underway on the Yantic River. However, with limited enforcement capabilities, these state regulations alone have not been enough to ensure that dams in Connecticut are being adequately maintained. Shockingly, even when a high-hazard dam is in poor condition and has a high potential to breach, there are no federal or state laws that require the population within the dam breach inundation zone downstream to be notified. When dams breach the downstream families and businesses are therefore taken by surprise, putting them at serious risk.

“When a dam removal is planned, however, the process is conducted in a way to minimize negative impacts, maximize ecological benefits, and eliminate safety concerns. With over 5,000 dams in Connecticut, it is time to protect people living in the shadow of dangerous dams by removing high-risk dams that are no longer necessary. Residents living along Connecticut’s rivers and streams deserve to be confident than their homes are safe.”

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