Science & Technology



A Connecticut river is named one of 'most endangered' in US. Here's why and what it means for residents

Ed Stannard, Hartford Courant on

Published in Science & Technology News

HARTFORD, Conn. — The Farmington River, “the top priority watershed in the state,” according to the state’s environmental agency, has been named one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers by the organization American Rivers.

The 47-mile river, which flows into the Connecticut River, “has the potential to be the biggest positive environmental impact to fish restoration,” according to Paul Woodworth, senior ecological restoration project manager for Save the Sound.

The reason it’s listed as endangered is the hydroelectric Rainbow Dam, which is only partially operating, Woodworth said. The dam is run by the Farmington River Power Co. in Windsor, which is owned by Stanley Black & Decker.

“The Farmington River supports diverse fish and wildlife, is a vital source of clean drinking water for the region, and provides boating and other recreation opportunities, but this dam is an ongoing threat,” said Katie Schmidt of American Rivers, in a statement.

“What got us concerned about the situation there was the toxic algae blooms,” said Aimee Petras, executive director of the Farmington River Watershed Association. The blue-green blooms, which can harm humans, dogs and wildlife, arrived in 2019, 2020 and 2022, she said.

“We started studying it and that’s when it became clear to us that a little bit of this is getting exacerbated by the conditions of the dam and the way that the dam owner is running the facility,” she said. “And that’s really why FRWA nominated the river for Most Endangered Rivers.”


Petras said company officials didn’t respond until the association told them they would be part of Tuesday’s announcement.

“The conditions at the facility really are concerning and Connecticut (Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) shut down the fishway in March of 2023 and that also just made us feel a little bit more like something needs to happen here,” Petras said.

“And the other reason we reached out to the company is that there’s historical federal funding to fix the fish passage. And we just wanted them to come to the table and hear about that opportunity.”

Debora Raymond, a spokeswoman for Stanley Black & Decker, issued a statement saying, “Farmington River Power has safely operated the Rainbow Dam for more than a century, providing sustainable hydropower for the local grid. We are committed to finding ways to make the Farmington River a vibrant and healthy river for fish, wildlife, and the community.”


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