Beneath the Haddam Swing Bridge, which crosses the Connecticut River at East Haddam, the waters of the river churn a muddy brown and huge limbs, and at times entire tree trunks, float along on the swollen river’s fast-moving current.
On a bright Saturday afternoon a week after Irene struck, the Connecticut is still higher than normal and running faster than usual. There are few boaters out on this sunny September day and at the nearby Goodspeed Opera House the evidence of the river’s recent flooding can be seen in the brown silt that coats the parking lots behind the house.
The river’s churning waters has state officials concerned about the safety hazard such conditions represent to boaters, especially those who use paddle craft, like canoes or kayaks.
Other rivers and waterways in the state, including the Housatonic and Farmington rivers, are still running high and fast from the deluge Irene brought to Connecticut and northern New England.
The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is cautioning boaters that conditions on Long Island Sound and the state’s rivers and streams present significant and dangerous challenges.
“Connecticut has already experienced one canoe-related death and residents and visitors alike must heed the message that Connecticut’s waterways - for a variety of reasons - present increased dangers at this time,” DEEP Commissioner Daniel C. Esty said. “Throughout the week we have fielded repeated calls involving boaters, in particular canoeists and kayakers, who have put themselves and emergency responders in danger by trying to navigate these swift moving waters.”
Besides just bringing more water into rivers and streams, Irene downed trees and limbs that have found their way into local watercourses, debris boaters are likely to encounter in fast flowing waters, Esty said. He also cautioned coastal boaters that debris, including large trees, is making its way into the Sound. In addition, navigation aids and regulatory markers may be out of place making navigation difficult.
Connecticut’s rivers and waterways are returning to normal after reaching flood stage this week, but the DEEP cautions it will take time for all of them to reach normal water levels.
The Connecticut River reached its highest flood stage in many years, thanks to Irene, and other rivers are also at or above typical spring flood stages. Large volumes of water are traveling at high rates of speed towards Long Island Sound and transporting large amounts of debris. Such high flows can make steering a boat very difficult, especially if boats are underpowered or hand paddled and a small problem or error in judgment can have tragic consequences, Esty said.
For conditions in Middletown along the Connecticut River, follow this link. In addition, DEEP announced three boat launches, Haddam Meadows in Haddam; Salmon River in East Haddam and Bissell Bridge in Windsor, are closed due to high water or storm damage.