The Norwalk River Watershed is relatively small, draining 40,000 acres along a 20-mile stretch through Connecticut and New York, entering Long Island Sound just 40 miles northeast of Manhattan. Once, the river was lined with grist mills, iron processors, and lumber mills. All are gone, but seven dams remain, impeding migration for Atlantic salmon, alewives, blueback herring, and trout.
The Norwalk watershed is heavily populated; urban near the mouth of the Norwalk River, forested and suburban in the upper reaches. Many of its water quality problems stem from stormwater runoff, loss of riparian vegetation, and direct discharges. Several stretches of the river do not meet water quality standards for swimming or migratory ﬁsh. Paved surfaces reduce water inﬁltration and inﬂuence the river’s water level, making it unnaturally high when the weather is wet and unnaturally low during dry periods.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed this project to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to test approaches that might work in the Long Island Sound’s watershed communities. Discussions with municipalities, local groups, and individuals revealed interest in protecting the Norwalk River Watershed, leading to the new partnership.