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It's All About The Trout--Restoring Deep Brook And Pootatuck Fisheries



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It’s All About The Trout––

Restoring Deep Brook And Pootatuck Fisheries

By Dottie Evans

Over the past couple of years, there has been increased concern about the health and well-being of Newtown’s irreplaceable Class 1 Wild Trout Management Area at the confluence of Deep Brook and the Pootatuck River below Commerce Park.

The need to preserve this resource has spurred a two-part restoration and monitoring program that is now well underway, as local members of the national conservation organization known as Trout Unlimited work with town and state officials.

Phase One completed this past weekend was the reshaping and stabilization of two sections of stream bank to restore habitat and prevent erosion. Phase Two, a two-year, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -directed biological testing program of the stream’s water, begins October 22.

“We have to protect these waters,” said James Belden, spokesman for the Candlewood Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Listing potential assaults on the breeding population of native brown and rainbow trout, Mr Belden mentioned sun exposure due to lack of tree cover, siltation from the sewage plant, and salt overflow from the Department of Transportation shed at Fairfield Hills. He did not mention two other ongoing threats –– poaching and oil spills.

“All these things at the same time –– we’re working on fixing them. Especially since last December when the last 200 yards of Deep Brook was getting hammered,” Mr Belden commented, referring obliquely to the December 30, 2004, fuel oil spill that occurred upstream at Reed Intermediate School.

“It helps that the old Fairfield Hills sewer plant was decommissioned,” he said, “and we’ll soon be testing at three sites in both Deep Brook and the Pootatuck to monitor the health of the aquatic life that nourishes the young trout.

“We’d been holding off on the tree planting because of the drought. But now it’s done, and we’re ready for the next stage,” he said with satisfaction.

Standing with several other Trout Unlimited members beside the Pootatuck on Saturday, October 1, Mr Belden gazed across the newly restored stream bank buttressed by a sturdy wall of logs anchored at the bend of a deep pool. His comments reflected the optimism felt by many Trout Unlimited members who have come from surrounding towns to help with the work projects.

Trees To Shade The Pools

The stream restoration work has been funded by two sources. A $6,700 Embrace-A-Stream Grant was won by Trout Unlimited in the spring of 2005, and the balance of the work has been paid for by an EPA consent order in lieu of a cash fine to the town following last December’s Reed Intermediate School oil spill.

Controlling erosion with streamside plantings and shaping the stream banks to improve habitat were two important goals accomplished during work begun in June and completed in early October.

“We’ve changed the contour of the bank so the water’s natural flow will scour away the silt and expose the cobble,” Mr Belden explained.

Accumulation of silt is detrimental to trout populations. It muddies the water in which they feed, and covers and smothers their eggs. Trout lay eggs in the crevices between rocks where the water runs clear.

Local Trout Unlimited chapter members obtained dozens of logs and stumps and bound them together by cables, then anchored them against the bank to provide an underwater refuge for the trout and a habitat for the invertebrates upon which they feed.

Gaps in the shade cover were filled as Trout Unlimited volunteers planted some 70 to 100 trees, including sunset maples, river birch, swamp white oaks, viburnum, and red twig dogwood. The planting holes were dug by hand and the trees were well watered and protected from deer predation with sturdy wire mesh cages.

Another remedy against erosion was the placement of coconut fiber mesh that Trout Unlimited members stapled into the sloping banks. They planted willow shoots in between the mesh squares and, already, grass is growing through.


Testing The Waters For Macro-Invertebrates

Now that the stream banks are secure, it is time to launch the second part of the grant project –– a two-year macro-invertebrate study of stream life.

“We’re targeting October 22 to begin testing the water after a DEP training session. All the area Trout Unlimited members will be taking part on behalf of the town.

“We’ll be looking for mayflies, caddis flies, and other aquatic insects that are the basis of the food system in rivers. These creatures are very sensitive to oil spills, and there is some anecdotal evidence that there may have been some damage done during the December spill,” said Mr Belden.

On the other hand, a careful observation of the protected pools formed by newly placed logjams gave hopeful signs that their efforts have been successful.

“Last week, I saw a six-inch brown float out from its hiding place. Today, you can see lots of baby trout swimming under the foam line,” said Gary Whipple of New Fairfield.

He explained that the foam line is the area of surface bubbles in a stream that indicates flow direction, and that fingerlings like to swim against the current and under the foam line to feed.

Pete Peterson, a longtime Trout Unlimited member who lives in Brookfield and travels regularly to Montana on fly fishing expeditions, spoke with enthusiasm about the work that Candlewood Valley Trout Unlimited members have done. He also credited the positive leadership shown by Mr Belden in Newtown.

“When that oil spill happened, some environmentalists would have been in an uproar getting all over the town officials with demands and accusations. These guys just went to work and figured out a way to make the situation work in a positive way.

“Now, they are getting so much more done to benefit the stream and its wild trout habitat. It’s wonderful,” Mr Peterson said.

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