Plans emerge for second phase of dredging at Gorham’s Pond
DARIEN — Planning for the second phase of dredging at Gorham’s Pond were recently unveiled.
Lucia Zachowski, president of the Friends of Gorham’s Pond, is looking for preliminary approval to dredge a portion of the pond to remove tons of sand used by the state Department of Transportation for snow and ice mitigation.
In a project begun in 2015, the group, a nonprofit comprised of residents committed to protecting the watershed, facilitated the removal of 800 tons from a 5,000-square-foot area in the upper section of Gorham’s Pond.
“That is a very small portion of what is there,” Zachowski said in a presentation to the Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday. The group wanted to go further north to remove more sediment, but a landowner in the area forbade it.
Still, Zachowski said there has been a noticeable benefit to the environment, noting especially the return of bald eagles to the area.
Now, with the cooperation of the residents of 10 McCrea Lane — as well as all other neighbors in a quarter-mile radius — whose property will provide an access point for contractors’ vehicles, Zachowski is hoping to start on the second phase of dredging just over the bridge, where there is anywhere between 3,000 and 6,000 tons of sand to be removed.
Before work can begin, Zachowski said she must first get approval from local bodies, like the Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as approval from state and federal agencies, like the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Because the pond is brackish and an inlet of the Long Island Sound, approval from the Office of Long Island Sound Programs is required.
With the sand from Interstate 95 that made its way into Gorham’s Pond — the DOT stopped using sand in 2008 — came a small amount of asphalt from the road, which can be considered carcinogenic.
“We don’t have a high concentration, but by DEEP standards it technically renders the sediment dirty,” Zachowski said.
She has begun interviewing contractors for the job and is investigating the different options for the disposal of the sediment. Among the choices are leaving a portion of the sediment on 10 McCrea Lane, where it would serve as top dressing, with the homeowners’ permission. The sediment could also be used in landfills in Pennsylvania or Massachusetts, Zachowski said.
“There are a bunch of different options, and each contractor has a different method by which they’d handle it,” Zachowski said.
The first phase of the project was financed primarily by Connecticut Small Town Economic Assistance Program grants. The Friends of Gorham’s Pond received $550,000 in state funding for the project and raised the remaining $50,000 to complete the project through private donations.
Zachowski said the funding for this newer project may well vary, depending on what state moneys are available and the degree to which Darien residents support the project. For this project, she will again apply for grants and look for private donations.
“I think for each stage of this project the financing will be handled differently,” Zachowski said.
According to Candide Valadares, of Candide Contractor, the contractor who completed the original project, the total cost of the project will depend largely upon the amount of asphalt from the highway found in the sediment.
“Everything below I-95 is polluted. That is really what defines what the cost will be,” said Valadares, though he said the upper portion of Gorham was only slightly polluted.
“I’m assuming this other section would be in the same range,” Valadares said.
Zachowski estimated the dredging would take roughly six months to complete. The Planning and Zoning Commission is expected to vote in the coming weeks.