Shelton Canal & Locks
Proposal to fill in the canal for development and proposal to close off the public access area.

The Shelton Canal, locks, and dam are owned by McCallum Enterprises and subject to a federal license to generate their hydroelectric facility.  The permit, which was granted in 1986 after extensive public comment, expires in 2026, and requires public access along the entire length of the 1/4 mile long canal.   The site is under FERC jurisdiction.   McCallum wishes to alter the conditions of their permit by closing the public area, filling in the canal, and selling it for a housing development.

Current Status (2-2009):  Proposal #1 (to fill in the canal for housing development) is on hold.  McCallum withdrew their US Army Corps wetlands permit application after receiving negative feedback from the Army Corps.  McCallum says it plans to resubmit the application.   Proposal #2 (close the public access area):  FERC has denied McCallum's request to close the canal and ordered the fence be removed within 14 days.



Photos and Maps 

Video of Canal Street, Canal, locks, and fence

1996 FERC Recreation Plan Guidance

Historic American Engineering Record - Ousatonic Dam and Canals (very detailed history)

Save Our Canal presentation prepared by the Citizen's Advisory Committee.

FERC - Wikipedia Entry

Thomas Hackett v J.L.G Properties (Candlewood Lake case regarding FERC's authority to override local zoning regulations.)


Jan. 2011 FERC Env. Report

FERC Order Feb-2009 

Feb 2009 DEP to FERC 

1-26-09 Conservation to FERC

1-21-2009 FERC re Rehearing 

1-8-09 P&Z Cease & Desist

McCallum Request for Rehearing 12-22-2008

12-18-2008 FERC orders map to include recreation areas

2008_12_3 DEP asks about fence removal

11-20-2008 FERC reverses canal closure.pdf

11-18-2008 Shelton files as a late Intervener

11-3-2008 FERC to reconsider canal closure

10-29-2008 FERC denies intervener status

10-2-2008 DEP says new fishing access is inferior

9-10-2008 Shelton PZC objects to canal closure.PDF

9-3-2008 FERC grants permission to close the canal to the public 

9-2-2008 CAB objects to canal closure

8-18-2008 Conservation Commission letter to FERC re public access

8-12-2008 Letter to FERC from HREC

7-28-2008 HRH letter to FERC regarding amendment to recreation plan.

6-30-2008 DEP Comments regarding "Amendment to Recreation Plan."

6-30-2008 DEP Notice of Intervention regarding "Amendment to Recreation Plan."

5-30-2008 Fed memo to expedite canal closure

5-30-2008 FERC Public Notice of Amendment to Recreation Plan

4-29-2008 Notice of Public Meeting

3-31-2008 DEP grants extension to July 20

3-14-2008 Proposal to eliminate northern fishing access

3-11-2008 Letter to McCallum from Army Corps

2-20-2008 CT DEP Letter of Insufficiency

2-6-2008 Army Corp announces public mtg

2-5-2008 Public Letter from McCallum

2-5-2008 McCallum to Mayor re sale of property

2-4-2008 HVA Comments

2-1-2008 State Historical Office Comments

1-29-2008 Jason Perillo comments

1-22-2008 Jack Finn comments

1-16-2008 Inland Wetlands Memo to Mayor

1-11-2008 Planning & Zoning Comments

1-10-2008 Conservation Commission Comments

1-4-2008 Citizen's Advisory Committee comments

Army Corp request for comments - ending Feb 4, 2008

FERC Approval, May 2007

McCallum letter re fish ladder 3-2007.pdf

FERC Letter re fish ladder feb 2007.pdf

1999 letter to McCallum from Fish & Wildlife regarding the need for a fish ladder (if you have trouble getting this to load, hold the control key down and refresh the page).

Shelton Riverwalk

Riverwalk Concept Poster showing "Waterworks Park" (canal & locks) as a destination. This is a very large pdf file - have patience.

Riverwalk Engineering Study Presentation

Public Notice:

Dec 10, 2007 public notice of DEP application 

Permit Application:

Combination application for CT DEP 401 Water Quality Certificate and 404 Army Corp permit,  scanned in 6 parts on 12/18/2007, rec'd by the Army Corp 12/19/2007:

McCallumDEPApp1.PDF (basic application forms)

(Executive summary, Sections A-C)

(Section H Engineering, Section I Floodplane Management)

(Ecological Impact Statement)

(Ecological Impact Statement - continued)

(Appendix A Correspondence with DEP and Army Corps; Appendix B Wetland Report; App. C Photos; Applicant Background info.)


How the process works:

DEP Fact Sheet for 401Water Quality Certificate Applications

FERC website: Citizen's Getting Involved

Army Corp policy on wetlands mitigation  (1. avoid impacts, 2. minimize impacts 3. rectify impacts 4. reduce impacts over time 5. compensate for impacts).  Mitigation offered is building a fish ladder.

In the photo above you can see the Shelton Canal located between Riverview Park to the left and the Housatonic River in the center.  The locks are in the lower left corner, next to the buildings, connecting the canal and river. The dam is located in the upper right corner.  See additional photos and maps.

Background: The Shelton Canal and Ousatonic Dam (aka Derby-Shelton Dam) were constructed in the late 1860's to power new factories. 

The canal supplied water power which lead to the immediate rise of industrial Shelton.  Recent newspaper articles have incorrectly stated that the canal was built to allow shipping passing.  Although the canal, in conjunction with a set of 3 locks, did in fact allow passage of boats, this was not its primary purpose, which was to supply power in an age before electricity.  The canal was THE power structure for all downtown industries and the reason for their existance in Shelton. 

The dam was built in order to fill the canal with water at an elevation higher than the river.   Each factory tapped into the canal with a tunnel that directed water from the canal to a wheel pit in which a turbine was powered by the water as it fell to the river below.  The turbine was connected to factory machinery throught a series of shafts, pulleys, and belts.

The canal and dam were so important that the town took its name after Edward Shelton, the primary mover and backer of the Ousatonic Dam Company.  (See history)

Most of the canal has been filled in over the years, but a reminant still survives off the northwest end of Canal Street.  The remaining canal is 1200 feet long (a quarter mile long) and 80 feet wide, totalling 2.5 acres.  It rests on a six-acre piece of riverfront property owned by the hydroelectric company which operates the dam, and is open to the public under their federal licensing agreement. There are picnic tables, views of the Housatonic River and dam, and steps leading to the water.  Public access is at the northwest end of Canal Street, adjacent to the Canal Street redevelopment project currently underway.

This area has been considered a major destination for the City's multi-million dollar River Walk extension, which is currently in the planning stages.

Proposal #1 (filling the canal): In late 2007 City officials learned that McCallum Enterprise, the dam operator, had received permission in May from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to fill in the 2.5 acre canal with 45,000 cubic yards of material, including bricks and asphalt, so that the land could be sold for future development. 

This news came as a surprise, since there are no requirements for adjacent property owners or City officials to be notified.  FERC approvals generally over-ride other permitting requirements (such as Inland Wetlands permits) due to the importance of energy generation, although questions have been raised as to whether this is the case in Shelton since the canal closure is not related to energy production.

According to the conditions of the FERC agreement, the canal closure must be reviewed by the State Archeology Office and the CT Department of Environmental Protection before filling may commense.  An application to the DEP was submitted in mid-December 2007.

The property is zoned R-4, which would allow for 35 to 45 homes if the canal were filling in.  A PRD overlay, which would allow for increased density, might also be allowed by the City in order to retain some public access to the water, which is not required under a standard subdivision.

The stated purpose of the project is to pay for a fish ladder. This fish ladder is required under the applicant's 1986 hydroelectric license regardless of whether the canal is filled in or not. Since 1999, there has been much discussion and planning regarding the fish ladder on the part of McCallum Enterprises, FERC and the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Local comment was not solicited. Therefore,  features of local scenic and historical significance, such as the canal and gatehouse, were not discussed as assetts to be protected.    For example, one option for the fish ladder is to remove the scenic gatehouse and build the fish ladder in its place(this is the building depicted in the Depression-era painting on display in the Shelton Post Office and in another painting prominantly displayed in Plumb Library).  This is also why the roof of the gatehouse has not been repaired (recent photos show the roof collapsing).

The pressure to build a fish ladder has increased recently due to the requirement of upstream dams to install fish ladders, which would be pointless unless all downstream dams also had fish ladders.

The following have taken a special interest in this proposal:  Mayor Mark Lauretti, Shelton Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), Citizen's Advisory Committee, Conservation Commission, Shelton Historical Society, and the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA). 

See the left margin for additional resources regarding the canal closure. 

Proposal #2 (closing the public access area by amending the recreation plan):  McCallum subsequently filed a request to change the recreation plan that had been approved in 1986 by closing over 1000 feet of canal and riverfront area previously open to the public.  Public notice per the FERC regulations was not provided, and Shelton officials and residents did not know about the plan until it was too late.  (Notice was published in The Advocate, a free specialty publication not of general circulation, and the Fairfield Citizen News, a biweekly publication that covers only the City of Fairfield). 

The CT DEP, however, received notification, and filed for intervener status.  The request was approved by FERC over DEP objections and a fence was installed (see video at upper left).  CT DEP then requested a rehearing, and the City of Shelton filed comments (although such comments were after the deadline).   FERC reversed it's earlier decision and denied closure of the public recreation area. McCallum has requested a rehearing. Copies of filed documents may be seen at left.