Greg Russ of the White River Partnership casts his fly rod for trout in the Mill Brook, a quiet spot tucked away in Pomfret. And it's teaming with trout.
"A very cool, shaded stream. It's cold water. Good habitat," he said.
On this day the fish aren't biting, and Tropical Storm Irene could be partially to blame. A fish ladder installed in the culvert several hundred yards downstream was washed away during the storm.
"It provided a velocity break for fish as they moved up through the culvert. The culvert is 185-feet long," Russ said. "It's a lot of velocity for a fish to try to fight up through."
While it was there, the ladder worked. Biologists found a 500 percent increase in trout populations upstream since 1995 when the fish ladder was first installed. Today, the White River Partnership is working to bring it back, though they are using a different tool than a fishing pole-- a new website called CleanWaterFuture.org.
"We have so many projects that need to be funded to restore fish habitat and flood resiliency, that the traditional grant sources that we've used have been tapped out for other projects," said Mary Russ, the executive director of the White River Partnership.
The website solicits private donations by highlighting projects online. It's similar to the site Kickstarter.com, in that the money is only transferred after the entire donation goal is met. But unlike Kickstarter, which funds projects around the world, CleanWaterFuture.Org is specific to the Upper Connecticut River Watershed.
"We understand that people have limited resources and what not, but we really see the health of the river as being in indication of the health of our entire community," Russ said.
Community-- at least in this corner world-- that rainbow and brook trout call home. And that's a good sign.
"Specifically brook trout. If you find brook in a stream, you know there is really good water quality. You know it is cold. You know it is clean," Russ said.
The Partnership needs to raise more than $20,000 in the next two weeks. They say what's at stake is a healthier trout population which in turn leads to a healthier environment.
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