The Friends of Gorham's Pond is making great strides to restore the pond to its former glory through a series of state grants and fundraisers.
"We have had a longstanding interest in getting Gorham's Pond dredged," John Lundeen, selectman and FOGP president, said.
There was once a time, according to Lundeen, that people in Darien were able to dive in and swim in the pond, which has not been the case in recent years. Because of continuous road runoff, sediments have filled the watershed.
"Ultimately, our attention has turned to returning (the pond) to its splendor," Lundeen said.
The Friends of Gorham's Pond's fall fundraiser -- a wine and cheese reception -- will take place Saturday, Oct. 6, at 71 Goodwives River Road from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., when the efforts to preserve the Gorham's Pond watershed will be explained. Tickets can be purchased on the Friends of Gorham's Pond website, friendsofgorhamspond.org.
However, returning the pond to what it once was has quite the price tag.
Darien was one of 17 towns to receive a portion of a $4.8 million Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant to improve the Goodwives River watershed.
The $400,000 grant to the town will be used to build an aquatic habitat and remove sediment within the Goodwives River watershed from Upper Pond, which empties into Gorham's Pond, eventually leading into Long Island Sound. The Upper Pond is the last remaining undredged one left in the two-decades-long effort to restore the Gorham's Pond watershed, including the Stony Brook and Goodwives River, according to Lundeen.
The Friends of Gorham's Pond has been working to preserve and restore the fresh water in the Goodwives River and Stony Brook watershed, which both drain 65 percent of Darien's land area.
In 2010, the Friends of Gorham's Pond received a $150,000 STEAP grant, much lower than the amount needed to complete the projects, Lundeen said. However, after conversations with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the group received permission to repair and dredge the Upper Pond.
The smaller project could be done with less money to clear necessary upstream sediment that threatens Gorham's Pond, and possibly demonstrate the application of new filtration technologies: repair/reconstruction of Upper Pond Dam on private property, including a fish ladder; dredging in Goodwives River both above and below the dam; and environmental remediation as dredging allows, according to the Friends' website.
The Upper Pond is the primary source of accumulated road sand, which eventually winds up in Gorham's Pond. Over time, the accumulation of silt would turn Gorham's Pond into marshland. Nearly all of the small and private ponds located in the Goodwives River watershed have been dredged, according to the Friends group.
In 2010, sample dredging found that sediment in the water systems was mildly polluted with highway hydrocarbons.
The proposal for the 2010 STEAP grant stated that if the contaminated sediment were not removed, it would flow into Darien Harbor and negatively affect the water quality of Long Island Sound. Another benefit of removing sediment from the mouth of Stony Brook is the lower risk of flooding in areas between the pond and Town Hall and as far north as Cherry Street and Hecker Avenue.
However, removing the sediment can be just as expensive as it is to dredge the ponds. The sediment that is brought up is wet and heavy and needs to be hauled off. But new technologies have surfaced that could potentially clean the sediment to a point where it can be sold back to the state to be used to repair beaches that are damaged following major storms or to be used on highways.
The Total Clean System has been used in areas of oil spills to clean the sediments.
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