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Fishway project OK'd for dam on Woodward's property

Published 4:01 pm, Tuesday, July 8, 2014

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  • The Nature Conservancy has received approval to build a fishway on an Aspetuck River dam on property owned by actress Joanne Woodward, like this one at the Lows dam on the Saugatuck River. Photo: Contributed Photo / Westport News
    The Nature Conservancy has received approval to build a fishway on an Aspetuck River dam on property owned by actress Joanne Woodward, like this one at the Lows dam on the Saugatuck River. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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Construction of a $30,000 fishway on the Aspetuck River on property owned by actress Joanne Woodward was recently approved by local conservation officials.

The application for the fishway, which will be built at an existing dam on the Coleytown Road property that Woodward owned with her late husband, the actor Paul Newman, was submitted by the Connecticut chapter of the Nature Conservancy, according to Sally Harold, director of river restoration and fish passage for the private agency.

The fishway is one of several being built in the state, with some costing as much as $1 million, Harold said.

The fishway on Woodward's property will allow migratory fish -- in this case, alewife and blueback herring -- to make their way up the Aspetuck River, said Harold. "Those two species are important to the food web," she said, adding migratory fish are the "field mice of the sea."

"They should be super, super abundant, but have been in decline for many years," she said, adding dams built along the river create problems for the fish to move farther upstream to spawn and reproduce. She said the Nature Conservancy's goal is to remove the barriers.

Since it's costly to remove the dams, she said, building fishways is the most cost-effective solution to give fish routes over the structures to their spawning grounds.

"The Nature Conservancy is trying to improve habitat for and improve fish migration up the (Aspetuck) river," said Alicia Mozian, the director of the town's Conservation Department, which approved the conservancy's application for the fishway on June 23.

"They are doing this type of work on private property throughout the town to enhance fish migration."

But in order to construct the fishway, Harold said, the conservancy first needed permission from the dam owner and, in this case, the dam belongs to Woodward.

Harold said the dam in question is a "pretty small one, not like one on a reservoir."

So, she added, "it won't be a huge construction project and should only take about two weeks to complete, weather permitting."

Harold said the project organizers are currently seeking bids on building the fishway and expect to have several bids to review in a week's time.

Once a contractor is selected, work can begin in late summer.

She said this project needs "very little funding," adding the conservancy wants to keep costs to around $30,000, or less.