July 31, 2014

The Nature Conservancy Begins Fish Passage Project on Falls River in Essex

ESSEX, CT—Work has started along the Falls River on a fishway that will benefit such migratory fish as alewife and blueback herring, as well as migrating American eel and other resident fish.

The work at the privately owned Tiley-Pratt dam will open the way for fish to access an additional 2.5 miles of river, as well as a half-acre pond above the dam. Located at a former mill site, the dam has a stone-wall lined channel that will be modified with a rocky ramp and four stone weirs. Falls River is part of the Connecticut River system.

Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection staff is assisting with construction.  The Essex Land Trust and the dam’s owner are also providing financial and other support for the project, which is expected to be completed during August.

“Connecticut streams are riddled with small dams that have big impacts.  Reconnecting rivers by removing dams and building fishways improves river health by increasing species diversity and providing fish access to more and varied habitat.” said Sally Harold, director river restoration and fish passage for The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut.

The Conservancy is working with the Essex Land Trust to develop and install an educational sign describing fish passage and river restoration strategies at the land trust’s nearby Tiley-Pratt Preserve.

“The east bank of Tiley-Pratt Pond is one of six Essex Land Trust preserves which border the Falls River, the ecological and historical lifeline linking together the villages of Essex,” said Bob Nussbaum, past president and current vice president, of the Essex Land Trust, which also has committed $2,000 towards the gravel to be used in constructing the fishway. “We are very excited to participate in this project to improve the river habitat and restore connectivity for migratory river species.”

The Tiley-Pratt dam project also is supported by an $85,000 grant award from The National Fish and Wildlife Foundations’ Long Island Sound Futures Fund.

Portions of the Long Island Sound Futures Fund grant also will support work at Coleytown dam on the Aspetuck River in Westport and a dam on Beaver Lake in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The grant required a Conservancy match of almost $60,000, secured through donor support and in-kind contributions.

New Bids to be Opened August 28 for Deep River Sewer Expansion project

DEEP RIVER— A second round of bids will be opened Aug. 28 for the town’s sewer expansion project after the bids opened in June came in higher than the $4 million in available funding for the project.

All of the six bids opened last month were over the funding authorization that was approved by voters at a May 2013 town meeting. The lowest bid, from Baltazar Contractors Inc., of Ludlow, Mass., was $4,828,958for a base bid and $5,507,658 for a price with all construction alternates. The project, which would extend the town sewer system to about 120 properties on and around River St. and Kirtland St., is funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant of $1.2 million and a $2.8 million 40-year loan.

First Selectman Richard Smith said this week funding for the project can not be increased, leading engineers to publish the latest bid documents without seven residential properties on River Lane. An alternate would include River Lane, while a third alternate would include a new pump station in the vicinity of the Putnam Park apartments.

Smith said two of the River Lane properties are new homes with new septic systems, while other dwellings on the street have not had major septic system problems. Smith added that he is hopeful the town can eventually complete the entire project, including River Lane. Smith said he is hopeful construction on the sewer expansion can begin this fall, for completion by October 2015.

Beautiful New Tennis Courts Open in Essex, Part of a Civic Campus Enhancement Project

 Tennis playing couple Julie Burdelski and Alex Bell of Essex on new Essex courts

Tennis playing couple Julie Burdelski and Alex Bell of Essex on new Essex courts

The Town of Essex has two brand new tennis courts, and they are a beauty. The new courts opened officially on July 24 of this year, and they have been well used ever since the day they opened. The new courts are surrounded by a “see through” wire fence, and according to a ranking Essex town official, the new courts were, “Completely rebuilt from below the ground up.”

Building the new courts meant the total excavation of the subsurface of the old courts. Furthermore, in installing the new courts, the very best equipment and materials were used from top to bottom. Also, a new interior drainage system was installed with the new courts. The total cost of the town’s new courts was within the $100,000 original budget allocation, however the new court fencing was funded by the Park & Recreation Sinking Fund.

In addition the new courts have new lighting for night play, costing over $10,000, which paid for by a private donor.

As for the expected life of the new courts, a town official said that, “Asphalt does crack in time.” However, his estimate is that the new courts could have a life span of as much as 15+ years. Throughout this new courts building process this town official stated, “We tried to use the very best materials.”

Tennis Courts Are Part of a New Town Enhancement

The new tennis courts are a component of what is called a, “Civic Campus Enhancement Project,” for the Town of Essex. A state grant of $472,000 funded the majority of the project. In addition to the new tennis courts, the town enhancement project includes a new and already heavily used children’s playground, and a completely resurfaced Town Hall parking lot with new curbing throughout.

Enjoying new playground equipment in Essex

Enjoying new playground equipment in Essex

The new playground and the new parking lot were completed for use in December of 2013. Another component of the project was new crosswalks from the town hall parking lot to the Essex Library, which is just across Grove Street from town hall.

The official grand opening of the entire Essex town enhancement project is slated for September 10, 2014.  A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at 5:00pm, followed by a showcase of the playground and tennis courts from 5:30-6:30pm.