NFWF grants $125k to HVA to protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat in northwest Connecticut
Thursday, September 10, 2015
The Housatonic Valley Association (HVA) has received a $125,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to assess bridges and culverts that cross rivers and streams in Northwest Connecticut. These assessments will be used to identify structures that prevent the movement of fish and wildlife along stream corridors and pose potential flood risks.
Five target watersheds known to support Eastern Brook Trout are the focus of this project. They are Macedonia Brook, Salmon Kill, Furnace Brook, Hollenbeck River and Sandy Brook. These watersheds fall within the towns of Sharon, Salisbury, Canaan, Cornwall, Colebrook, Kent and Norfolk.
With the information collected in bridge and culvert surveys, HVA will produce an inventory and management plan for each of the seven towns. These documents will be used to help select replacement projects with the greatest potential for restoring habitat and preventing flood damage. Thanks to this grant each of the towns will receive replacement designs for the highest priority structures, putting them ahead of the curve for when the next big storm comes through.
To survive, fish and animals such as muskrat, mink, otter, frogs, stream salamanders, turtles, and snakes, need to move freely in and along rivers and streams to access habitats, avoid adverse conditions, and find food and mates. Some bridges and culverts disrupt this movement and can negatively impact our rivers and streams.
Mike Jastremski, HVA’s water protection manager, said, “There are thousands of road stream crossings in the Housatonic watershed. Many of them are too small, and prone to blockage, and many are in disrepair. They are barriers to fish and wildlife passage, and they can cause flooding and interfere with emergency response. They are also expensive for towns to maintain. The good news is that the same design principles that ensure safe passage for fish and wildlife make for safer, flood resilient crossings that require less maintenance. Fixing these problematic culverts is a real win-win for communities and the environment.”
Norfolk First Selectman Susan Dyer said, “This grant will become a useful tool for our towns insuring that any replacements of the affected culverts are done in a productive manner that will result in better stream management and less maintenance.”
HVA and its partners will work with communities in these watersheds to prioritize crossings for replacement that are barriers for fish and wildlife and are a potential flood hazard.
Sharon First Selectman Brent Colley said, "My congratulations go out to HVA, Michael Jastremski and all who assisted on this initiative. Addressing issues that involve fish and wildlife movement, proper drainage and flood control is important, essential work, with benefits that will pay dividends to all."
Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams said, “Culverts tend to be neglected so I am pleased that we have the opportunity to get this work done by people who know what they are doing.”
HVA Executive Director Lynn Werner said, “HVA launched this initiative in the Berkshires several years ago. We partnered with the Berkshire Environmental Action Team and trained an army of volunteers who have collectively examined more than one thousand stream-crossing culverts so far. Thanks to the NFWF, we’re able to expand this project into the northwest Connecticut.”
According to Jastremski, a good crossing spans the stream and banks, does not change water velocity, has a natural streambed and creates no noticeable change in the river. He said that effective crossings include bridges, open bottom arches and culverts that span and are sunk into the streambed.
Jastremski also noted that as rivers get warmer due to climate change, the smaller cold water streams will become more important to help aquatic species survive. He said, “It is vitally important that aquatic organisms are able to access cold-water refuges. Our assessments will help us understand where the most important blockages are in these five watersheds, so we can work with towns to address them.”
This is one of 13 grants totaling more than $1.2 million that NFWF has awarded to restore and sustain healthy forests and rivers that provide habitat for diverse native bird and freshwater fish populations in the six New England states.
The grants are the first awarded through NFWF’s New England Forests and Rivers Fund, which was launched this spring. Major funding is provided by Eversource’s Partners for New Hampshire’s Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service.
About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores our nation’s wildlife and habitats. Chartered by Congress in 1984, NFWF directs public conservation dollars to the most pressing environmental needs and matches those investments with private contributions. NFWF works with government, nonprofit and corporate partners to find solutions for the most intractable conservation challenges. Over the last three decades, NFWF has funded more than 4,000 organizations and committed more than $2.9 billion to conservation projects. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.
About the Housatonic Valley Association
Founded in 1941, HVA is uniquely dedicated to protecting the entire Housatonic River Watershed. The watershed includes about 2,000 square miles of land stretching from western Massachusetts through western Connecticut and eastern New York to Long Island Sound. HVA monitors water quality throughout the watershed, conducts educational programs, works to link preserved space with the Housatonic River Greenway of hiking and biking trails and uses computer mapping to help towns measure the impact and benefits of land use and development. It also sponsors the Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative in protecting more land across northwest Connecticut. HVA’s offices are in Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut; South Lee, Massachusetts and Wassaic, New York. More info is available at www.hvatoday.org.