Drought empties popular New Milford pond, killing off fish
NEW MILFORD — This year’s drought conditions have emptied popular Conn’s Pond on Route 202 in New Milford, killing the fish that lived there and forcing frogs and turtles to relocate.
Residents have been urging the town to do something about it, but Mayor David Gronbach said Wednesday options are limited.
“I know it is distressing to see how low it is as we drive by on Route 202, but (there) is a good explanation (of) why we cannot just fill it up,” Gronbach said.
He shared a statement from town Wetlands Officer Jim Ferlow about the situation on social media accounts Wednesday.
Ferlow said that the groundwater table in the area has “dropped below the bottom elevation of the pond.”
The town could add water from another source, but much of it “will dissipate throughout the watershed, leaving the pond level low.” In effect, the town would have to put enough water into the pond to fill the groundwater table around it before it would actually restore the pond to the levels people were used to seeing in the past.
Finally, Ferlow said, bringing in water from another source would risk contaminating the pond with invasive species. For example, zebra mussels have been found in the Housatonic River and invasive weeds in Candlewood Lake. Environmental officials wouldn’t want to spread that stuff to the Great Brook watershed, he said.
And simply using water from a fire hydrant, he said, would introduce “purification chemicals that are not suitable for a pond environment.”
Ferlow sees a silver lining in what he sees as the temporary evaporation of Conn’s Pond.
“There may be some environmental benefits associated with the drought,” he said. “Although the drought caused the fish to die off and forced transient species such as frogs and turtles to relocate, the drought also killed much of the pond weed. If allowed to freeze, this drought could act as a control measure for the pond weed.”
Ferlow said the town could reintroduce “desired fish species” to the pond once water levels return to normal.
Douglas Glowacki, an emergency management program specialist at the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said earlier this year that the area has seen a two-year decline in rainfall, and that nearby plants sucked up the groundwater that was left in the area of the pond.
“You can think of a pond as being the visible part of your water table,” Glowacki said, adding that water levels normally drop through the summer as nearby plants grow. He predicted last month that the pond would likely rebound this fall, with or without rainfall. Heavy rain on Tuesday could help. New Milford received more than an inch.
The pond has been a popular spot for people who like to watch turtles sunning themselves on a board in the middle of the water, and many people have fed its fish and turtles over the years.
Theodora Pinou, a Western Connecticut State University professor of biological and environmental sciences, said last month that the pond’s most popular inhabitants, the turtles, should survive.
“They’re not married to any one pond,” Pinou said. “They’ll just go somewhere else if they can get there. ... Turtles aren’t very selective. They’re pretty hardy.”
Conn’s Pond sits on a small piece of land along Route 202 that sat across the street from the old Conn’s Dairy.