Published January 10. 2013 4:00AM
Haddam - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday acquired 38 acres along the Salmon River in the Haddam Neck section to expand the Salmon River Division of its Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge to 416 acres.
The property was purchased for $900,000 from the Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Co., owners of the site of the former Connecticut Yankee nuclear power plant, said Andrew French, project leader of the Conte wildlife refuge.
It served as a "safety zone" around the plant, French said, and none of the spent nuclear fuel still at the site is located on this parcel.
The Conte refuge extends over 7.2 million acres in the four-state region of the Connecticut River watershed. Thus far, 35,696 acres have been acquired, but the Fish & Wildlife Service long-term goal is to expand it to 87,500 acres, French said.
The new acquisition includes extensive beds of aquatic plants in the Salmon River that are significant overwintering, spawning and feeding habitat for fish and shellfish, according to a Fish & Wildlife Service news release. Freshwater tidal wetlands, flats and an adjacent forest on Salmon Cove provide food for migratory birds and a winter roost for bald eagles. The property also has historic significance, French said.
The new property is located near other conservation holdings on the Salmon River - a tributary of the Connecticut River - including the Salmon River State Forest and parcels owned by a local land trust - and connects various conservation lands, French said. Much of the Fish & Wildlife property in the Salmon River Division is already open to the public, and he expects the new parcel will also be open in the future.
Bob Capstick, spokesman for Connecticut Yankee, said the 38-acre site includes the homestead site of Venture Smith, the African slave who was able to earn freedom for himself and his family in the mid-1700's.
It is located next to the 544-acre site of the former plant.
Connecticut Yankee has made no decision about that property, nor has it established a timetable for making a decision, he said.