During the winter of 2008 and much of 2009 Connecticut Audubon Society Science & Conservation staff carried out monthly monitoring studies on five US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) flood control project sites in the Naugatuck River valley. USACE operates a series of dams on the Naugatuck River and its major tributaries to hold back flood water in the event of storm-related flooding or heavy snow melt. These dams were put in place after disastrous floods killed dozens of people and destroyed substantial sections of several towns and cities in the Naugatuck River valley in 1955.
US Army Corps of Engineers' Thomaston Dam during flood stage in spring of 2009 (Photo: Twan Leenders)
Associated with each dam is a project site that can accomodate a large volume of water, but which is generally more likely to be flooded only seasonally. The six flood control projects in western Connecticut together comprise approximately 4,700 acres of multi-use land and additional land is leased by the USACE. The extensive floodplains and additional habitat types included in these flood control project sites provide important habitat for a wide variety of species.
As part of a 5-year review of the performance of each site CAS provided detailed information on the importance of the USACE-owned land for local wildife, in particular for species included in the CT Endangered Species Act and for other species of greatest conservation need. In addition, CAS provided assessments of the presence and status of invasive non-native plant species on each property and proposed future habitat management recommendations to increase the wildlife habitat value of each site, within the scope of its primary flood-control purpose.
CAS staff recently completed work on five flood control sites in Thomaston, Plymouth, Harwinton, and Middlebury and today was awarded a contract to commence work on a sixth site, the enormous Colebrook River Lake project site which straddles the CT and MA border in the northwest corner. Surveys of local amphibian, reptile, bird and mammal populations will commence this month -- just in time for spring migration and the breeding season. We'll keep you posted on interesting finds!