Four Years After Sandy: A River Flows Free in New Haven, CT

volunteer planting day at Pond Lily dam

Ankle-deep in mud, Tsa Shelton patted down the soil around a marsh grass she had just planted.

“This community is getting held accountable for its environment,” said Shelton. “If you have an area like this where people can actually come out and get a nice fill of nature, I think it’s definitely worth it. I think it’s a great thing to have in urban areas.”

Shelton was among more than 100 community volunteers who came out to the site of the former Pond Lily dam this past spring to celebrate the dam’s removal and help return it to a natural area for locals to enjoy. The project is featured in a new video showcasing the community behind the work, including Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, volunteers and partners.

Watch the video!

After enduring years of repeated flooding to homes and businesses, this urban community is now optimistic that flooding won’t be the problem it once was.

Removal of the dam opened up 2.6 miles of the West River, improving passage for fish such as herring, eel and shad. And the dam site itself is being transformed into an urban nature park with the help of the New Haven Land Trust, CT Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound and volunteers like Shelton who planted native vegetation to stabilize the river banks and prevent erosion.

Pond Lily is one of many dam removal efforts up and down the Northeast to help improve water flow and fish passage while also reducing the risk of community flooding due to failure of old, obsolete dams. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investing $167 million in federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery to restore and strengthen coastal and inland areas through dam removal, marsh and beach restoration, living shorelines and innovative science initiatives. 

Four years this month after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, it’s projects like Pond Lily dam removal that are helping restore and protect communities in the face of a changing climate. Learn more about the resiliency projects that are supported through Hurricane Sandy disaster relief funds and watch our Pond Lily video.

volunteer planting day at Pond Lily dam

Volunteers planting native vegetation along the river banks following removal of Pond Lily dam in New Haven, CT. Credit: USFWS

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