BERLIN — Environmental officials hope a new fishway being built on Kensington Dam will reinvigorate the ecosystem in Railroad Pond.
After inspectors identified damaged concrete on both sides of the dam, the town drain the pond for repairs. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection encouraged the town to add the fishway, which will allow fish to travel from Long Island Sound to Railroad Pond via the Mattabesset and Connecticut rivers
The fishway will allow fish to swim 70 feet up the side of the dam in a 2 foot by 2 foot trough containing turbulence-generating veins and rest stops, said Stephen Gephard, supervising fisheries biologist with the DEEP’s fisheries division.
The town is paying the $1.6 million cost of the dam repairs, while state and federal grants are covering the $250,000 fishway installation. The dam was built between 1901 and 1905 to provide water for locomotives, but now serves to keep the pond filled for recreational use.
The fishway will increase the number of spawning areas for alewife, a keystone fish species in the food chain eaten by other fish throughout rivers and in the Sound, as well as osprey, bald eagles and otters.
“These fish are extremely valuable as forage fish,” Gephard said. “When they’re in the ocean, they’re like sardines and everything eats them ... they strengthen the ecosystem.”
Berlin Public Works Director Mike Ahern said the dam repairs should be done in November.
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