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Grant Will Clear Barrier To Migratory Fish Along Stamford's Noroton River

Gwen Macdonald, habitat restoration director for Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound
Gwen Macdonald, habitat restoration director for Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound Photo Credit: Connecticut Fund for the Environment

DARIEN-STAMFORD, Conn. -- Construction may begin as early as next summer on a project to make life a bit easier for migratory fish in the Noroton River along Stamford and Darien. 

The Long Island Sound Futures Fund awarded the Connecticut Fund for the Environment and its Save the Sound program a grant a grant last week.

The CFE/Save the Sound will use the funds to help restore fish passage on the Noroton River, a tidal river that forms the boundary between Darien and Stamford, by removing a barrier. 

In the 1950s, the Connecticut Department of Transportation constructed I-95, bridging the Noroton River and channeling it through a three-section box culvert. 

The culvert’s design failed to accommodate the needs and abilities of migratory fish species such as the river herring. It presented a nearly impenetrable barrier to migration. This fish passage project will clear the way to desirable diadromous fish habitat upstream — habitat that has been blocked for more than 50 years.

“Removing this longstanding obstacle to fish migration will greatly benefit the river herring run, the health of the Noroton River, and the overall Long Island Sound ecosystem,” said Gwen Macdonald, habitat restoration director for CFE/Save the Sound. “We expect the alewife populations to thrive in the upstream habitat at Olson Woods, preserved by our partners at the Darien Land Trust.”

The Darien Land Trust has permanently preserved and protected over 200 acres in Darien, including key properties both upstream and downstream from the site of this fish passage project. 

“We are committed to helping complete this project with CFE/Save the Sound and to restore the river herring run on the Noroton River that was extinguished by the construction of I-95 in the 1950s. This is an integral part of our ongoing stewardship throughout the Noroton River Watershed,” said Flip Huffard, president of the Darien Land Trust.

This project will boost the statewide effort to restore more abundant populations of American shad, alewife, and blueback herring to Connecticut rivers with a tidal connection.

Project partners include Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Inland Fisheries Division, the CT DEEP Office of Long Island Sound Programs, the Darien Land Trust, NOAA Restoration Center/ Restore America’s Estuaries, and the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

The feasibility study and engineering design were funded through previous grants by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Office of Long Island Sound Programs and through a grant from NOAA Restoration Center/ Restore America’s Estuaries.

Pending permit approval and fundraising for the final construction costs, CFE/Save the Sound hopes to begin construction next summer.

LISFF is a program managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, partnering with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Long Island Sound Study, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Long Island Sound Funders Collaborative.

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