Dredge Work Restoring Wethersfield Reservoir

by Louise Axelson, Courant Staff Writer

Wethersfield – From a distance, the 1860 Reservoir, hidden away from Highland Street by shade trees, appears ready to receive summer visitors. What looks like a red, white, and blue pleasure boat floats invitingly on the water.

The town’s chief of engineering, James Sheehy, laughingly dubbed the long, flat piece of equipment “The African Queen,” after the craft upon which Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart fell in love as they chugged though the jungle in the movie with the same name.

The machinery that has been stuck in the mud of the 1860 Reservoir since Wednesday is not as romantic a contraption as Bogart’s boat, however. “You’re talking about moving 150,000 cubic yards of muck,” Sheehy said.

The equipment is a coveted piece of state-owned machinery called a Mud Cat dredge that will be used to clean out the reservoir, which has become laden with more mud than water over. Unless the reservoir, which lies in the midst of one of the town’s most exclusive neighborhoods, is cleaned out, it will continue to lose its shoreline to weed growth and turn into a swamp, officials have said.

The town bought the 64-acre site of the 35-acre reservoir about 20 years ago with the help of federal open space grants. Ten years ago, the town started talking about dredging it, Sheehy said.

Complications ranged from a Town Council debate on whether to spend $100,000 to buy a dredge and to concerns by federal environmental officials about where the dredged material could be dumped.

The dredging, using one of the state’s two dredges, is finally scheduled to begin Wednesday.

The big break for the project came after the state abandoned its plans to build I-291. State-owned land formerly designated for the highway corridor in Wethersfield and Rocky Hill turned out to be the prefect repository for the dredged material.

Also, over the past few years, the 1860 Reservoir moved to first place from 11th on the state Department of Environmental Protection’s list of ponds needing the dredge, Sheehy said. Two long pipes, one black and one gray, connect the reservoir to two massive craters that straddle the Wethersfield/Rocky Hill line.

After the dredge agitates the reservoir so the mud and water mix together, the 90 percent water and 10 percent mud combination will gush through the black pipe and under Two Rod Highway into one of the craters.

Reprinted from The Hartford Courant, Hartford, CT