Rivers, Lakes and Ponds

Posted Apr 15, 2024
Speak up for River Herring! Ask for time/area closures in Amendment 10!

Send a letter

Comments can be sent to the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) via email at comments@nefmc.org or by mail addressed to Cate O’Keefe, PhD, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill #2, Newburyport, MA 01950. Please note on your correspondence; “Atlantic Herring Amendment 10 Scoping Comments.” Comments must be received or postmarked by 8 am, April 30th.

Tell the NEFMC that you support measures designed to end the by-catch of river herring. In particular, time/area closures for locations where Atlantic herring fisheries overlap with concentrations of shad and river herring in waters adjacent to Southern New England.

Read the comments of Rivers Alliance

Attend a meeting

Attend a public hearing at the Hilton Hotel in Mystic on April 17 from 6:00pm – 8:00 pm. Concerned citizens can attend and speak. There will also be an online option. Register to participate online. Call in info: +1 (562) 247-8321; Access Code: 124-483-408

Attend a webinar on Webinar Monday, April 22, 2024 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.  Register to participate.

New England Fishery Management Council amendment 10 information page.

Background information

Credit: Steve Gephardt

There was a time when the Connecticut River and all the State’s rivers that flow into the Long Island Sound teemed with migratory fish, including salmon, shad, striped bass, sturgeon, and river herring. The construction of dams from the late 1600s to the mid-1900s blocked their path and prevented them from spawning. The numbers of these fish plummeted. For the past 50 years we have made gains in bringing back these fish runs by cleaning up our rivers, removing unneeded dams, and building fishways around dams that remain.

Despite the earlier historical decline, Connecticut streams were still full of spawning river herring each spring as recently as the 1970s. River herring include two species, the alewife and the blueback herring, which are similar foot-long silvery fish that enter our streams in schools. Streams like the Farmington, Mattabesset and Salmon rivers; Pewterpot, Salmon, Porter, and Roaring brooks and Chester and Higganum creeks were full of spawning herring up to the first dam. This was also true along the shoreline from Greenwich to Groton; every sizeable stream had river herring runs.

Stream conditions are now much better than they were in the 1970s yet the numbers of river herring have been in a downward spiral since then and are now at risk. Numbers lifted over the Holyoke Dam went from 630,000 to 21. Most of the small streams flowing into the Connecticut River are empty. The blueback herring are more-or-less extinct from smaller coastal streams.

How can this be?

About the time when the decline began, large trawlers started harvesting Atlantic herring from the waters off the eastern end of Long Island Sound during the late winter when our river herring were congregating to enter the Sound for their spring spawning runs. Atlantic herring and river herring are closely related and resemble each other. The massive nets, often pulled by two huge ships, scoop up river herring along with the Atlantic herring.

After years of urging by conservationists, the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) amended its Atlantic Herring Management Plan by prohibiting trawlers in the area of the ocean off southern New England waters when our river herring are mixing in with the Atlantic herring. However, the courts threw out the closure on a procedural issue before we could see any gains. The trawlers have now returned and continue to kill our river herring.

Why do we care about river herring? They are the forage base supporting both freshwater and saltwater ecosystems. Everything eats them including ospreys, bald eagles, striped bass, tuna, largemouth bass, and great blue herons. If we care about our rivers and the Sound, we need to have an abundance of these fish, yet we have a history of treating forage fish as expendable.

Rebuilding river herring runs will revitalize our waters, support all manner of wildlife, and improve recreational fishing, which is a lucrative industry supporting tourism and contributing to our quality of life. It has been said that there are plenty of river herring in Maine so there is no need for concern. That’s because the NEFMC closed their coastal waters to the trawlers. Now the trawlers come to southern New England to catch our fish because the NEFMC has not closed our coastal waters.

Is that fair?

It is time that NEFMC provides the same protection for our fish that it provides Maine. The NEFMC is considering a number of protective measures including re-closing the Southern New England area via a proposed amendment to the Atlantic Herring Plan called Amendment 10.

The people of Connecticut and the Connecticut River watershed need to speak up and demand fair treatment.

Posted Apr 11, 2024
Nature for a Resilient Connecticut – harnessing nature’s power to combat climate change

We stand at a critical juncture where the interconnected crises of climate change and biodiversity loss demand immediate and urgent attention. Scientific evidence unequivocally demonstrates that the changing climate wreaks havoc on habitats and ecosystems, while the erosion of biodiversity further amplifies the impacts of climate change. We cannot address one crisis without confronting the other.

Intact natural systems – our soils, forests, wetlands, watercourses and diverse ecosystems that Connecticut is so fortunate to have in abundance – offer nature’s own solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Nature itself is a formidable ally in the fight against climate change. Natural systems not only sequester and store carbon, but they also provide essential ecosystem services such as nutritious food, clean water, clean air, flood control, and drought resilience. However, their efficacy relies on their richness as both a carbon pool and for species diversity.

Protecting biodiversity encompasses safeguarding a plethora of life forms, from soil microbes and pollinators to myriad plant and animal species. These organisms are the backbone of our natural systems, ensuring their resilience and our ability to adapt to a changing climate.

The science is clear – Natural Climate Solutions (NCS) can provide over one-third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed by 2030 to stabilize warming below 2°C. Alongside aggressive reductions in fossil fuel emissions, NCS offer Connecticut a powerful arsenal of strategies for fulfilling its obligations under the Global Warming Solutions Act while simultaneously enhancing soil productivity, improving air and water quality, and safeguarding biodiversity.

We must protect nature and biodiversity in order to protect our well-being, our communities, and our economy.


Riparian Buffers

Riparian buffers protect and improve water quality, attenuate flooding, and provide a myriad of additional ecosystem services. Unfortunately, Connecticut’s current regulatory framework provides no specific protections for riparian buffers along wetlands and watercourses. Indeed, we have the least protective buffer standards of all the New England states. There must be a comprehensive review of Inland Wetlands and Watercourses and Planning and Zoning statutes and regulations to incorporate protections specifically for riparian buffers. Redundancy should be provided
to reduce risk. We must address weaknesses in our inland wetlands and watercourses protection that result in loss of wetlands and cold-water habitat.

There are several areas that need to be addressed in our IWWC statutes and within DEEP:

  • Update the required number of members of an Inland Wetlands Agency that must be trained from a minimum of one member to all members being required to obtain training. Utilize conservation districts to assist DEEP with training.
  • Expressly prohibit the merging of Inland Wetlands Commissions with Planning, Zoning, and Planning and Zoning Commissions within a municipality.
  • DEEP’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses program is severely under-resourced, providing little support for local commissions. Dedicated staff at
    DEEP in the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses program must be increased.

Update State and Municipal Plans of Conservation and Development

Land use planning in Connecticut is implemented at the local level and starts with municipal Plans of Conservation and Development (POCD). All municipalities should be considering the threats of climate change and loss of biodiversity in their planning efforts and incorporate protection of our natural systems into the POCD. Existing state statutes should be updated to require cities and towns to consider the role of nature and natural systems in the POCD as part of resiliency planning.

Open Space & Forests

Despite the essential role that nature plays in addressing the dual environmental crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, as well as a myriad of other benefits to communities, Connecticut has not met its land conservation goal (protecting 21% of its land base by 2023), and the state’s natural and working lands are being lost at an alarming rate. For
example, of the 59%of the state that is forested, ~53% is core forest—large blocks fundamental for wildlife habitat, drinking water supply protection, and ecological resilience.

Core Forests of 500+ acres are declining rapidly—losing ~120,000 acres from 1985-2015 to fragmentation and development.

Connecticut should enact legislation that prioritizes the support and maintenance of an ecologically functional landscape that sustains biodiversity, conserves landscape connectivity, supports watershed and airshed health, promotes climate resilience, supports farms and forests, provides opportunities for recreation and appreciation of the natural world, and offers resilience while supporting sustainable development patterns.

Such legislation should authorize and incent the use of nature-based solutions as the preferred alternative, where appropriate, across all agencies and appoint an interdisciplinary scientific advisory council consisting of experts in climate science, ecology, forest science, soil science, wildlife biology, environmental economics, and other appropriate disciplines to help establish and inform the use ofnature-based solutions, including:

  • Reenacting comprehensive forest conservation policy to keep forests as forests, protect healthy, intact forests, offset planned or permitted forest losses, protect urban forests.
  • Add more parks, and evaluate and revise the state’s land conservation goal as set forth in Section 23-8 et seq. of the general statutes.
  • Revising existing or promulgating new rules and regulations, establishing systems for NBS and ecosystem service data collection.

Global Climate Solutions Act (Negative Emissions)

Connecticut should amend the Global Warming Solutions Act to incorporate “negative emissions.” According to Commissioner Katie Dykes written testimony date March 10, 2023 to the Environment
Committee on Senate Bill No. 11452 (2023): “Negative emission practices and technologies include but are not limited to reforestation and management, wetland management, soil management, and direct air capture.” These techniques not only provide climate change mitigation benefits but can also support critical ecosystem services such as air pollution reduction, biodiversity protection, and water filtration.

Often referred to as carbon capture and storage, these approaches – both bio-based and technology-based – are critical components in most IPCC pathways that keep global warming to below 1.5°C.

Incorporating negative emissions into Connecticut’s Global Warming Solutions Act while also adding a net zero emissions target for 2050 will realign Connecticut with the latest science and will support Connecticut’s ability to identify the most cost-effective path to a decarbonized economy.

Natural and working lands provide tremendous negative emissions benefits to Connecticut as our climate changes. Numerous scientific reports through various models have documented carbon and other greenhouse gas pollutants sequestered or absorbed and stored underground in soil, roots, and above ground in tree trunks and branches. Avoiding the deforestation or development of natural and working lands is the most effective means of maintaining and enhancing the “negative emission” benefits of this landscape type.

Posted Jul 05, 2023
Summary and Timeline of proposed management changes on the West Branch of the Farmington River

Summary and Timeline

  • In 2019, the MDC stated its intention to remove it’s hydroelectric facility and terminate it’s contract with USACE on Colebrook Dam and passed a District Board resolution stating as such.
  • Immediately following, Rivers Alliance and Save the Sound engaged DPH on the necessity of MDC filing for an abandonment permit and raised concerns about the future status of protected watershed lands surrounding Colebrook Dam. This concern was not unfounded, in initial meetings and presentations with stakeholders, Scott Jellison stated several times that they would love to get out from under the property taxes.
  • There were several years of legal back and forth between MDC and US ACE and MDC and DPH as to the status of the agreement and the 10BG in question and inquiries from Rivers Alliance and Save the Sound to DPH on the status of the issue.
  • In June 2022, MDC filed a petition for declaratory ruling with DPH regarding DPH’s authority over future, potential drinking water sources.
  • In the summer of 2022, MDC reduces releases to only what is required by agreement and statute claiming that they do not have the authority to release water because they were no longer party to the Colebrook agreement.
  • US ACE submits a letter in advance of a stakeholder meeting in August meeting stating that the MDC remains party to the agreement and US ACE cannot release water unless the MDC calls for it per the agreement and operational releases.
  • In January, MDC withdrew it’s petition for declaratory ruling and agreed to file for an abandonment permit which was filed this spring. Rivers Alliance submitted pre-filed testimony through Save the Sound for the declaratory ruling proceedings.
  • In June 2023, Save the Sound and Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy negotiate a Memorandum of Agreement with the MDC to grant NCLC a conservation easement to permanently conserve the watershed land around Colebrook and Save the Sound, NCLC, Rivers Alliance, the Farmington River Watershed Association, the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, and the Nature Conservancy file joint comments to DPH in support of granting the MDC and abandonment permit.
  • MDC continues to maintain that it is not authorized to release water outside of requirements by agreement and statute through low flows during early summer of 2023.
  • DPH is expected to provide a decision on the abandonment by July 20th.

Other resources on this issue:

Posted Feb 27, 2021
Kinneytown Dam: Working for Better Passage for Migratory Fish

Kinneytown Dam photoOver the past several decades, the Naugatuck River has made a remarkable comeback, with the return of fish, birds, and other wildlife, and an increase in human use. From 1999-2004 five dams were removed from the river. However, currently, there is an ineffective fish ladder at Kinneytown Dam that is preventing migratory fish from accessing miles of restored habitat upstream. Rivers Alliance of Connecticut is proud to be a part of the Naugatuck River Restoration Coalition, a coalition of concerned organizations formed to ensure that safe, timely, and effective fish passage returns to the Naugatuck River.

Providing safe, timely, and effective fish passage is a condition of the exemption from licensing the Kinneytown Dam was granted in 1983. While the fish ladder was built to meet this requirement, even when it was operating as designed, fish passage was modest, at best. Since 2013, the ladder has been rendered almost completely ineffective.

For more information on this hugely important issue, check out this interactive story-map.

Posted Jan 22, 2018
Naugy Suffers Again


The Naugatuck River can’t seem to catch a break. As if it wasn’t bad enough to get vaguely associated with Legionnaires Disease in December, and after a five million gallon sewage spill October 9, on Saturday, January 20, 4000 to 6000 gallons of hydraulic fluid spilled from a Somers Thin Strip in Waterbury, contaminating the factory grounds, pavement, soil and storm-water catch basins. Much of it reached the River. The Waterbury Fire Department put oil booms in the river, but most of the oil had already flowed downstream. CT DEEP took over cleanup of the river.

Other Naugatuck River Problems

According to DEEP’s Bypass and CSO Events Public Viewer there were 6 other sewage spills into the Naugatuck River in 2017 in addition to the big one described above. 2 of them occurred since the famous Oct 9 spill. During the massive rain storms Oct 29-30, from 100,001 to 500,000 gallons of sewage got into the river from an overflowing manhole at Waterbury’s treatment plant, and from 501 to 1000 gallons overflowed from a manhole on High Street in Naugatuck.

Earlier in 2017 from 1,001 to 5,000 gallons of raw sewage reached the river from a spill on Derby Avenue in Seymour September 9. The Waterbury treatment plant had a spill estimated to be anywhere from 500,001 to 1,000,000 gallons on April 16. A spill on Church Street in Naugatuck on February 7 spilled an unknown amount of sewage in the river. The Naugatuck’s bad year began on Jan 20, 2017 when 650 gallons of raw sewage was bypassed into the Naugatuck River from the City of Naugatuck’s treatment plant.

However, if there were any sewage spills in Beacon Falls in 2017, they would not show up on the list above because that system does not report electronically to DEEP. The other sewage treatment plants on the Naugatuck, in the cities of Derby, Naugatuck, Seymour, Shelton, Torrington, Thomaston, and Waterbury all report electronically.