It was fitting that it rained at Northfield Brook in Thomaston, Connecticut during the flood damage reduction project’s 50th anniversary celebration on Oct. 3. Fitting because rain is the reason why this project came to be built.
“This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Great Flood of 1955,” said Project Manager Vincent Gualtieri during the opening of the official ceremony, held under one of the project’s large shelters.
Gualtieri served as Master of Ceremonies. “We often hear terrible stories about the two back-to-back hurricanes Connie and Diane,” he said. “Homes, railroad cars and debris racing down the Naugatuck River as well as stories of lives and livelihoods lost.”
According to Gualtieri, local, state and federal agencies worked together to construct a network of flood risk management projects. Northfield Brook Lake Dam was one of 35 dams built in New England by the Corps of Engineers.
The project manager thanked the contractor who constructed the dam, Brookside Construction of East Hartford, Connecticut for doing an excellent job. Mike Sawaka, whose late father Michael was onsite during construction, was present for the celebration. His wife Jennifer and other family members were also on hand to enjoy the celebration.
Maj. Daniel Herlihy, Deputy Commander of the New England District also spoke. “More than 50 years ago, my predecessors and many local and state officials made some difficult decisions to bring this project to fruition,” he said. “Today we can thank those leaders who came before us, who had the vision to plan for the future, and to accomplish what we see here today, as well as what we envision for the future.”
Maj. Herlihy said that he believes the Northfield Brook Dam project proved and exceeded its anticipated value through the years. “Although the benefits of flood risk management alone are immeasurable, the multi-use project provides more than flood risk management,” he said. “It helps in creating a healthier, more active unified community through its many educational and recreational opportunities, increasing safety, friendships and self-esteem.”
Flood Risk Management is Northfield Brook Dam’s primary mission, but other benefits such as an array of recreational opportunities are available for the public to enjoy. It is estimated that over 41,000 visitors annually visit the dam and its recreation area to enjoy picnicking, fishing, walking, wildlife viewing and hunting. Visitors bring money with them as well as recreational enthusiasm, spending an estimated $1.1 million at local businesses.
Maj. Herlihy said that the Northfield Brook Dam has saved the region and the nation an estimated $76 million in damage prevention over the past 50 years.
“At a cost of $2.8 million to build in 1965, the benefits of the dam have well exceeded its initial cost, meaning a 27-times on investment!” he said.
The Deputy Commander recognized the towns of Thomaston and Litchfield, Basin Manager Christopher Way and Project Manager Gualtieri, their staff and other volunteer Corps employees for making the event possible. “This is a great day for a celebration of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the residents of Thomaston and Litchfield and the visitors here today,” he said. “We thank you all for your tireless service to our nation and the tremendous job you do each and every day.”
Other speakers were Connecticut State Representative John Piscopo and Thomaston 1st Selectman Ed Mone. At the conclusion of the speeches, Northfield Brook staff held a tree planting ceremony. Guests were invited to enjoy various historical displays in Shelter #2. At noon, there was a dam tour and walk to the inlet. The celebration wrapped up with a Ranger Trail Hike along the brook.