DEEP says New Canaan dam is hazardous, locals want plans changed

NEW CANAAN — The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has classified a local dam as dangerous and will solicit public comment Monday afternoon on how to restore it.

Local conservationists plan to present DEEP with alternative solutions for properties owned by the Norwalk First Taxing District Water Company. The hearing will take place online on Monday at 1 p.m.

According to DEEP, the dam is classified as “high risk,” meaning that failure of the dam could likely result in fatalities, major damage to habitable structures and residences, damage to critical utilities and infrastructure, and major economic loss.”

Louise Washer of the Norwalk Watershed Association said she wanted “a safe restoration of the dam with a project conducted in a manner that is least damaging to the environment”.

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She opposes a permit originally filed in November 2018 by the Norwalk First Taxing District Water Company, which owns the 54-acre reservoir. The reservoir is bounded on the west by a limited number of residential properties and partially on the east by Browne Wildlife, owned by the New Canaan Land Trust.

“Our concerns are multiple – the environmental impact of tree clearing, the reduction in visibility and the potential damming of a spring pond and stream that would flood a significant part of our popular Browne Wildlife Sanctuary,” Canaan Land Trust’s new board member, Chris Schipper, said.

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Washer hopes to highlight how the project would affect wetlands and is responding to known concerns that a series of walls and berms could prevent water from draining into the reservoir.

She also estimated that up to 400 trees would be felled, many of which would come from the Browne Wildlife Sanctuary owned by New Canaan Land Tust. Licensed water resources and dam engineer Laura Wildman is expected to present alternatives to the plans, which focus on preserving the local environment, on Monday.

The process, taking place on Monday, is dubbed “scoping,” in which sponsoring agencies solicit comments from other agencies and the public on the scope of alternatives and environmental impacts that should be considered for further study.

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Washer also plans a presentation that will include video of the wetlands at Browne Wildlife Sanctuary flowing to the reservoir. Grupe’s dam is one of 65 registered dams in New Canaan and one of four with a “C” or “High Hazard” rating. The other dams with a C are the New Canaan Reservoir Dam, the John D. Milne Lake Dam, and the Silvermine Dam.

Every two years, a safety inspection of the Grupes dam is carried out by a dam safety expert.

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