By Robert Koch
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has awarded Norwalk a $970,000 grant to remove the Flock Process Dam from the Norwalk River, according to the city's legislative delegation in Washington, D.C.
Removal of the dam could occur next year, according to local officials.
"We're working with (an engineering firm) finalizing the (removal) design and they're working on getting all the necessary permits," said Alexis Cherichetti, Norwalk's senior environmental officer. "Once we have an approved plan of action, we would work with the Fish & Wildlife Service to work on physically removing the dam."
Cherichetti said the engineering study will determine the cost of the removal. At this point, officials are hopeful that the $970,000 grant will cover most, if not all, of the cost.
The actual work could occur only during a certain portion of the year.
"Typically, any in-stream work happens during what we call low-flow conditions, so we're talking the late summer months," said Cherichetti of the project timetable. "So possibly next summer."
Removal of the dam will eliminate dam failure risk, restore native species populations, and build resilience to future flooding, according to U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4, and U.S. Sens. Richard M. Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, also Democrats.
The socioeconomic benefit of the project is estimated at $1.75 million.
The $970,000 is one of 45 grants announced on the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy to assist restoration and research projects that will better protect Atlantic Coast communities from future powerful storms, according to the lawmakers.
"One year later, the effects of Superstorm Sandy are still felt by many Norwalk residents," said Himes in a press statement. "I am pleased that the city has received this important investment to reduce the effects of future storms while also improving the health of the river's ecosystem."
Blumenthal said the dam removal project will "go a long way in ensuring that Connecticut is prepared for what has become the new normal -- once-in-a-generation storms such as Hurricane Sandy."
Murphy said thay Connecticut's shoreline bore the brunt of "storm after storm, disrupting lives and businesses and costing millions to recover."
"Beaches, marshes, wetlands, and other natural coastal areas act as a critical buffer between dangerous storm surges and the people and structures on land, and restoring and strengthening these areas will help our state be ready to weather future storms," Murphy said.