News & Advocacy

Norwalk River Watershed Association

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Here are the letters we have sent advocating for water quality and habitat protections this year.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service has proposed removing the dam in Ridgefield at the start of the Norwalk River.  Here are NRWA’s comments on the proposal.  Here is the draft plan for removal.

Norwalk River Watershed Association will be hosting a Community Engagement/Land Stewardship Coordinator through TerraCorps, and is thrilled to welcome Jayme Soyak of Ridgefield as our TerraCorps member. Welcome Jayme!

TerraCorps is an 11-month AmeriCorps service position, with service members working across a network of land-based community non-profits towards equitable land use, food justice, and environmental sustainability. Think of it as the environmental/conservation version of AmeriCorps.

Thank you to everyone who supported the fight to save the riverbank at Grupes Reservoir.  The Dept of Energy and Environmental Protection has issued a decision to grant the First Taxing District the permit it has requested which will allow for increasing the height of the dam, removing all vegetation and building a series of walls and berms along the east bank for 1500 feet from the dam along the service road.  The area will include walls that extend in front of the Browne Wildlife Sanctuary and will disconnect its wetlands from the reservoir unfortunately. We have appealed the decision and will update this page if the decision is reversed. 

Thank you to everyone who supported us financially and joined the Online Public Hearing on September 29th. There were over 70 participants. se. 

More detailed information:  Plans to repair and raise the Grupes Reservoir Dam in New Canaan include removing over 400 native trees and shrubs along 1500 feet of riverbank in order to build a series of walls and berms along the eastern riverbank.  The First Taxing District of Norwalk water company provides drinking water to Norwalk and a small section of New Canaan from the 4 dams and reservoirs it operates along the Silvermine River. The dams begin at the river’s source in Lewisboro, NY and end at the Grupes Dam along Valley Road, just adjacent to the New Canaan Land Trust’s Browne Wildlife Sanctuary.

NRWA and the New Canaan Land Trust are concerned that the negative environmental effects of removing the vegetation from the riverbank and disconnecting the wetlands of Browne Sanctuary from the Silvermine River have not been included for review in the proposed permit application for the work that was submitted to the Dept of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). The dam, built in 1871, is in need of repair.  NRWA appreciates the importance of the dam safety issues involved, but argues that a full review of the effects of the plan to wall off the eastern bank of the river should have been required.  There are feasible alternative plans that repair the dam, protect the homes below the dam from potential flooding, and spare the riverbank and the beautiful, pristine wetlands that have been protected by the Land Trust since the 1960s.

Pictured here, the banks of the reservoir, an arial view of 1.5 acres of riverbank forest that would be lost under the plan, and one of the native shrubs (wild buttonbush) that will be lost if the current plans are implemented.



Aquarion Water Company applied for a permit in early October 2018 to pump 1 million gallons per day from a previously unused well next to the Norwalk River in the Cannondale area of Wilton, reducing the flow of the river by up to 10% of the previous 7-day average for 25 years.  We have serious concerns about the effects this diversion could have on the river, area wetlands, and possibly nearby private wells.  The water will go to Southwest Fairfield County (Greenwich, Stamford, Darien and New Canaan) and Ridgefield to improve drought resiliency. 

NRWA questions whether this well is necessary at this time, or whether drought resiliency could be met through water conservation, infrastructure repairs, and other improvements.

Aquarion held a public meeting on February 26 in Wilton and over 100 people attended.  The meeting lasted 3 hours with several residents, representatives, and regional and state environmental organizations asking questions and making comments against the the well. Here is news coverage of the event.
WiltonThe town of Wilton hired an environmental consultant who asks these questions about it, and here is the Wilton Bulletin coverage.
Here is early coverage in the Wilton BulletinGood Morning Wilton, the Norwalk Hour. 
Aquarion presented the application to stakeholders from Wilton and Norwalk on Wed, Nov. 7.
We question whether this well is necessary at this time.  If you agree, please call or write to the CT Dept of Energy & Environmental Protection. Here are some of the concerns we have about the well, some suggested comments, and where to send them.

Harbor Watch reports that water quality in the Norwalk River fails to meet minimum state standards roughly 81% of the time.

Low flows contribute to impairment of our rivers almost every summer.  During the summer, 70% of the water we use is used outside, and this water is coming out of our rivers.  Even if your water source is from a well, that ground water feeds rivers and wetlands.  All water is connected!

NRWA feels drought resiliency should be achieved through water conservation. If you agree that we need to work together to help leave more water in our rivers, find out more about how to conserver water here and  let your town leaders and CT DEEP know.

More action to take: Ask your town officials about their stormwater management plans and what they are doing to protect our river from runoff. We need to let them know we want them to enforce Inland Wetlands regulations and setbacks from waterways for new development. 

Join Us To Build A Pollinator Pathway. Find out more here. Also, check out our new website  And follow us on facebook at  @Wilton Pollinator Pathway; @Ridgefield Pollinator Pathway & @Norwalk Pollinator Pathway

Our new yard medallion signs are here! Order one today.


Thank you to all the volunteers who came out all summer and fall to plant pollinator gardens along the  Pollinator Pathway!  Special thanks to REI, FactSet, Ridgefield Rotary Club, Wilton Garden Club, Town of Ridgefield for funding the purchase of plants for our Pollinator Pathway habitat restoration projects. 

Great news for birds in Connecticut!

Audubon Connecticut has recognized the Great Meadows, lush farmland and forested wetlands along an 8-mile stretch of the Connecticut River, as an Important Bird Area (IBA). The Great Meadows IBA includes Rocky Hill and Glastonbury Meadows, Wethersfield Cove and Crow Point in Wethersfield, and Keeney Point in Glastonbury and East Hartford. This area provides important stopover habitat for several declining grassland bird species including Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Bobolink, Horned Larks, and Savannah Sparrow. It is also an important area for waterfowl, such as Canada Geese, American Black Duck, Mallard, Wood Duck, Common Merganser, and Green-winged Teal, particularly in spring migration. Bald Eagle nest at two locations within the IBA and 20 percent of the area is floodplain forest, a key habitat identified in the Connecticut’s Wildlife Action Plan. Read more…

Check out this new report on WHERE RIVERS ARE BORN: THE SCIENTIFIC IMPERATIVE FOR DEFENDING SMALL STREAMS AND WETLANDS from the national organization American Rivers.

NRWA and Woodcock Nature Center collaborate on a series of Community Conservation Initiatives involving library talks tied to volunteer community service action.  Check the events page for details.

Native Plant of the Month: Amelanchier Canadensis 


Shadblow, or Serviceberry, is one of the first small understory trees to bloom in the spring. It has frost-resistant flowers that are fragrant, white and showy and bloom before the leaves open. These flowers provide an important early season nectar source for butterflies and other beneficial insects. A Connecticut native, with tremendous wildlife value, shadblow was so named because it fruits in June when the shad (a northern fish) run. Researchers have documented at least 26 different types of wildlife that feed on its berries, starting in June when its fruit reaches maturity. The berries, red to dark-purple-black when ripe, are especially popular with songbirds, including bluebirds, robins, cardinals, orioles, waxwings and thrushes, in addition to chipmunks and squirrels.

A handsome landscape plant, that is low-maintenance, shadblow grows well in full sun or part shade. It reaches an average height of 6-15 feet, depending on the amount of sunlight and moisture it receives. Generally a shrubby tree, it will grow as a single-stemmed tree if shoots are removed. Shadblow shows a wide soil tolerance and can even grow in heavy clay soils. Able to thrive in suburban landscapes, its native habitat includes woodlands, grasslands and coastal riparian areas or wetlands. Leaf color ranges from light green in spring, to dark green in summer, and fall color is striking with shades of orange, gold, red and green.

Shadblow plantings are particularly effective against a dark or shaded woodland edge, which tends to highlight its form, flowers and radiant fall color. It is also effective along stream banks and ponds. Good companion plants include Eastern Redbud, Eastern Sweetshrub, violets and sedges.                                                                                  –By Elizabeth Craig

(NATIVE PLANT OF THE MONTH is a new series by NRWA master gardeners, Jackie Algon and Elizabeth Craig)

Norwalk’s Bike/Walk Task Force Seeks to Make The City Streets Safer

NRWA recently attended a meeting with Mayor Harry Rilling’s Bike/Walk Task Force, which is charged with making Norwalk’s streets and sidewalks safer for everyone. One of the group’s first projects was to create a map that shows existing bike routes, bike lanes and sharrowed (lanes to be shared by cyclists and motorists) lanes in the City and suggesting where additional routes could be developed. One of its current projects is developing a strategic plan for the next two years. It has drafted a plan and is currently vetting it with several shareholder groups. The task force meets the first Monday of each month, unless it’s a holiday. If it’s a holiday, they meet on the second Monday of the month. The meeting is from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm in the second floor conference room at the Norwalk Health Department, 137 East Avenue. All are welcome to attend. You can find out more about the taskforce here.        

Photo credit: Daniel Pietzsch of
Two Important Studies Released on Water Quality in Long Island Sound

The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) and the Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC) have both released annual studies on hypoxia levels in Long Island Sound. Hypoxia occurs when seawater contains low levels of dissolved oxygen, below 3mg per liter as defined by these studies. Marine life needs dissolved oxygen in water to survive, so sustained periods of hypoxia threaten sea ecosystems. Oxygen levels can fall naturally during the summer when calm weather prevents the churning of seawater, which mixes oxygen rich surface waters with bottom water as happens in other seasons. However, according to the CT DEEP, “studies of the limited historical data base for the Sound suggest that summer oxygen depletion in Western Long Island Sound has grown worse since the 1950s.” Hypoxic conditions mainly occur in the Narrows and Western Basic of Long Island Sound, west of the line from Stratford, CT to Port Jefferson, NY. Both the CT DEEP and the IEC have been monitoring dissolved oxygen levels in the Sound since 1991.

Of the eight cruises conducted by CT DEEP in the summer of 2015, five different stations were documented as hypoxic, and of the 252 site visits completed in 2015, hypoxic conditions were found in four surveys. Compared to the previous 24-year average, 2015 was below average in area and near average in duration. Both the CT DEEP report and the IEC report are full of information on the state of water quality and marine life health in the Sound over the last 25 years.

WHO: Monsanto’s Roundup ‘probably carcinogenic’

Accreditation course will teach landscapers how to avoid using chemical agents

Hour Staff Writer | Posted: Monday, August 31, 2015 5:45 pm


GREENWICH — This fall, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut (CT NOFA) will lead its Accreditation Course in Organic Land Care in Fairfield County for the first time.

In March, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer issued a report declaring glyphosate — the active ingredient in Roundup, a widely used agricultural herbicide produced by chemical giant Monsanto — to be “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

“For decades, people have been led to believe that glyphosate and other organophosphates are not harmful to people or the environment,” said Jeff Cordulack, executive director of CT NOFA. “This is not the case, and many studies (including this latest report by WHO) have pointed to their dangers.”

Due to health and soil damage risks associated with chemical pesticides and herbicides, as well as Connecticut’s 2010 ban on chemical pesticides near elementary schools, it would behoove landscapers and landscape architects, as well as environmental educators and lawn enthusiasts, to familiarize themselves with methods of chemical-free land care, said Jeff Cordulack, executive director of CT NOFA. …article continued.

Norwalk Harbor gets a “C” on Water Quality Report Card issued in June for Long Island Sound.  The report card is an Initiative of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, which has become nationally recognized and has been used to evaluate and track water quality changes in serveral major water bodies in the country.  The report sheds light on the health of the Norwalk Harbor and our watershed, and will serve as a baseline moving forward.
Wilton Daisy Troop worked at the Wilton Playshop Rain Garden
Wilton Daisy Troop Spruces up Rain Garden

Thanks to Wilton Daisy Troop 50229 members Grace Couch, Mackenzie Northway and Emma-Hayes Setterlund for their good work planting native plants at the Wilton Playshop Rain Garden, designed and installed by Michael Dietz of UConn’s NEMO Program.  The Scouts worked with Elizabeth Craig to add red Cardinal Flowers, Joe Pyeweed and ferns.

You can make a difference every time it rains at your house, too.  Non-point source pollution (run-off from impervious surfaces such as roofs, driveways, roads and parking lots) has been cited by the US EPA as a major source of pollution for our waterways.  Rain gardens catch runoff, filtering it before it reaches rivers and streams.  For more information visit

NRWA Works with REI to Enhance Hiking Trail

Last Fall local volunteers, REI and NRWA planted nine native Connecticut trees along the section of the Norwalk River Valley Trail between Union Park and Mathews Park in Norwalk. Volunteers cleaned up the trail and cut back invasive plant species. Watch for more opportunities this spring to help enhance trails and river banks in the watershed.

NRWA Helps Install Model Rain Garden in Wilton

In partnership with UCONN’s NEMO program, NRWA and volunteers from the community created a model rain garden at the Wilton Play Shop on Lover’s Lane in Wilton. Rain gardens catch and help filter contaminants from storm water runoff from roofs, parking lots and other impervious surfaces before they reach rivers and other waterways. For more information on rain gardens, visit the UCONN NEMO site. Photograph courtesy of Clear Choices Clean Water.