Waterbury activist, Valley cities & towns leading environmental battle over Kinneytown Dam

New Haven

SEYMOUR, Conn. (WTNH) — He has devoted his life fighting for the health of the Naugatuck River. Now, that fight is going to Washington.

Kevin Zak’s Naugatuck River Revival Group, along with Save the Sound and the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments (NVCOG) filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which aims to get the operator of the Kinneytown Dam in Seymour to comply with newer environmental rules to make it easier for migratory fish to travel from Long Island Sound up the Naugatuck River.

The operator of the dam is Hydroland Omega LLC, based in Washington State.

Those filing the complaint say it’s important environmentally and ecologically and the state, federal governments, and cities and towns along the river have spent millions in taxpayer dollars over the years to improve the quality of the Naugatuck River.

They believe the dam is impeding that work.

Naugatuck Mayor Pete Hess told News 8 restoring the quality of the Naugatuck River and getting fish moving is important for the 19 cities and towns that are part of the NVGOC.

“The towns, the state, the federal government have spent millions and millions of dollars to try and restore the river,” he said. “The river is our foundation. And to be able to bring back migratory fish from the ocean will be a great benefit to the town. It will bring anglers from everywhere. It’ll enhance economic development and just overall improve the river.”

Zak explained why he thinks the Kinneytown Dam is blocking all that work and acting as a barrier to thousands of fish.

“They’re are stuck at the bottom of this dam because they’re drawn back as part of a false attraction,” Zak said. “The water’s not supposed to spill over this dam, it’s supposed to be diverted to the left and right of it and right now it’s not doing that. And when the water goes over this dam, it draws the fish to the bottom where they die.”

A spokesman for Hydroland told News 8 problems with the Kinneytown Dam were happening long before they bought the property:

“We purchased these dams to provide green power and to be a good neighbor. We’re prepared to make those investments to make the fish passage work properly. We’re the only entity that [has] owned this facility that [has] developed a plan that will work and that has been accepted.”

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