OLR Bill Analysis

SB 81 (File 30, as amended by Senate "A")*

AN ACT CONCERNING THE DESIGNATION OF CERTAIN AREAS OF THE HOUSATONIC RIVER AS A WILD AND SCENIC RIVER.

SUMMARY:

This bill designates the northern section of the Housatonic River as a wild and scenic river in order to preserve it according to the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The 41-mile section extends from the Massachusetts border to New Milford's Boardman Bridge.

Under the bill, the Northwest Hills Council of Governments (NHCOG) acts as the administering agency for the river on behalf of the Housatonic River Commission (HRC). It must do so according to terms set out in a memorandum of agreement between the NHCOG, HRC, National Park Service, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and Housatonic Valley Association, Inc. For this purpose, the bill makes NHCOG a political subdivision of the state.

The bill requires the governor to apply to the U.S. secretary of the Interior to complete the river's designation as a wild and scenic river. Rivers designated by the secretary are included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

Lastly, the bill specifies that the wild and scenic river designation will not affect authorized agricultural activity along the river as long as the activity does not need a federal Army Corps of Engineers permit. These permits are required when conducting certain activity in navigable waters and other areas such as wetlands.

*Senate Amendment “A” adds the provision regarding agricultural activity.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage

BACKGROUND

Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (P.L. 90-542) protects free-flowing rivers with important scenic, natural, recreational, historic, cultural, or similar values. A river may be designated as wild and scenic and included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System either (1) through congressional action or (2) at the request of a governor if the river is already protected by a state river protection program. The latter process requires administration of the river by an agency or political subdivision of the state.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Environment Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

29

Nay

0

(02/24/2016)