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Lily Pond Dam, Built In 1780, Demolished

Davis Dunavin

There are more than 4,000 dams in Connecticut. Many of them are old and no longer serve any purpose. One of them is the Pond Lily Dam in New Haven. It’s one of six dams being removed this year in Connecticut. Plans to demolish the Pond Lily Dam have been in the works for five years.

The Pond Lily Dam was nearly as old as American independence. It was built in 1780 to divert water toward the paper mills that lined New Haven’s West River.

“When those mills went out of business, these dams no longer had a mill owner to take care of them, and they were no longer being used to power those mills," said Gwen Macdonald, Director of Habitat Restoration with the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. She leads the project to remove Pond Lily Dam. This is one of a number of projects funded by more than $2 million in federal grant money for dam removal following Superstorm Sandy.

Macdonald said the only thing most of Connecticut’s dams do now is increase the risk of floods during heavy rain or strong storms.

“These dams have fallen into disrepair," she said. "They leak. The stones may have fallen out of the top of them, and they serve a potential safety hazard, as well as breaking up and fragmenting our watersheds in Connecticut.”

McDonald said, now that the Lily Pond Dam is gone, this area can again be a natural habitat for animals like turtles and eels. She said soon the stream will be full of new species of fish, which couldn’t get upstream before now because of the dam.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.