Saturday: Darien Land Trust celebrates completion of Noroton River fishway

Save the Sound released a group of pregnant alwives into the Noroton River in 2011; the fish way will allow their offspring to return in the coming years.

The Darien Land Trust is celebrating the completion of the Noroton River fishway project just in time for Fish Migration Day, April 21. Saturday will mark the culmination of a multiyear partnership between the Darien Land Trust and the Connecticut Fund for the Environment’s Save the Sound Program. The event works in conjunction with Earth Day on Sunday. Together the nonprofit organizations collaborated to clear the Noroton River to provide clear spawning routes for migratory fish who live in saltwater but return to freshwater to reproduce.

Save the Sound approached the Darien Land Trust in 2011 to help redesign a culvert near the Stamford-Darien border. Redesigning the culvert, which rests on the Darien Land Trust’s Olson Woods property, was the key step in re-opening a 6.8 mile stretch of the river for migratory fish. Originally constructed during the 1950s, the culvert runs underneath I-95 and has blocked the passage of fish down the Noroton River for decades. After nearly seven years of work alongside the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and Department of Transportation the project is now complete.

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“This has been an incredible collaboration between Save the Sound and the Darien Land Trust
over many years, and it is fantastic to see the fishway coming to fruition,” Flip Huffard, president of the Darien Land Trust, said “Migratory forage fish, such as the river herring, play an incredible role in the ecosystem, as food for predator species and as filter feeders cleaning our waters. It’s so exciting to think of them returning to the Noroton River watershed after more than 50 years absence.”

On Saturday, Connecticut Fund for the Environment (CFE) and Save the Sound will have restoration experts on site near the outlet of the river at The Boatyard at Smokey Joe’s BBQ, 1308 East Main Street, in Stamford. Experts will be able to answer questions about the project’s impact, and visitors may even see some fish returning upstream for the very first time. Modifications to the culvert will slow the water and maintain depth, allowing fish to safely climb upstream.

See all Earth Day weekend events here.

A group of pregnant alewife fish were deposited in the Noroton River in 2011, with the expectation that they could eventually return to river via the repaired culvert. Though alewives spend the majority of their life at sea in saltwater, they instinctively begin to return to their freshwater spawning grounds to spawn after approximately five years.

CFE’s Director of Green Projects Gwen Macdonald said, “this is the first time in almost 60 years that alewife and blueback herring will be able to safely migrate through this stretch of the Noroton River and reach their freshwater spawning habitat upstream. State agencies and nonprofits can work together to safeguard our rivers, fish, and habitats for the public trust.”

In 2016 the town of Darien, DEEP and the Friends of Gorham’s Pond collaborated on a project to install a dam and fish ladder along Goodwives River, along with removing several tons of sediment from the banks of Gorham’s Pond. Neighbors of the pond reported wildlife returning to the area shortly after the project’s completion.