Environment Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-81

Title:

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

Vote Date:

2/24/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

2/19/2016

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Environment Committee

Representative Roberta B. Willis, 64th District

Representative Joseph P. Gresko, 121st District

REASONS FOR BILL:

Designates the portion of the Housatonic River that is the subject of a multi-organization memorandum of agreement as a wild and scenic river for purposes of preservation under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. In addition to providing more widespread recognition of the River's unique qualities, the designation will help ensure that federal or permitted projects along the river will not adversely affect the River or any of the resources that led to its recognition as “Wild and Scenic.” In addition, the designation will aid in the implementation of the Housatonic River Management Plan.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

None Expressed

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Mayor David Gronbach – Town of New Milford: Mayor Gronbach testified that New Milford is fortunate to have the Housatonic River “flowing through the heart of our community.” He added that the River plays a “vital role” in shaping recreation, scenic beauty and beneficial economic development.

Amy Blaymore Paterson, Executive Director – Connecticut Land Conservation Council: Ms. Paterson stated that this designation would provide “national acknowledgement of the river's unique and important characteristics.” She added that the River's ecological, historic and cultural attributes would be more adequately protected through the implementation of this “platform for cooperative decision-making.”

David Sutherland, Director of Government Relations – The Nature Conservancy: In his testimony, Mr. Sutherland referred to the Housatonic River as a “critical natural resource” of significant ecological importance since it is one of three Connecticut rivers that flows into Long Island Sound. He explains that a “Wild and Scenic” designation would play a significant role in the reduction of pollutants currently making their way into the Sound.

Eileen Fielding, Executive Director – Farmington River Watershed Association: Ms. Fielding stated that this designation would give “cachet to a community's natural assets” while continuing to allow for local river stewardship. She added that the River's “scenic and natural values” play an important role in bolstering Connecticut's economy.

Eric Hammerling, Executive Director – Connecticut Forest & Park Association: In his testimony, Mr. Hammerling explains that federal designation would enable long term protection of the River as well as shared management between local, regional, state and federal partners. He added that the designation will also “bring resources” from the National Park Service.

William Tingley, Chairman and Jesse Klingebiel, Secretary – Housatonic River Commission: In separately submitted testimony, Mr. Tingley and Mr. Klingebiel state that the ability to “attract funding for protection and management of the River” will be much more feasible with this designation. They added that the Wild and Scenic River designation will be an “important part in our ongoing protection” of the Housatonic River by ensuring that projects that might adversely impact the River are conducted in a manner consistent with the desire for preservation.

As part of Mr. Tingley's testimony, additional documents were included that stated the following individuals also support the legislation:

Bruce Adams, First Selectman – Town of Kent

Board of Selectmen – Town of North Canaan

Board of Selectmen – Town of Sharon

Gordon Ridgway, First Selectman – Town of Cornwall

Board of Selectmen – Town of Salisbury

Board of Selectmen – Town of Canaan

Lynn Werner, Executive Director – Housatonic Valley Association: Ms. Werner testified that the Housatonic River is a “Connecticut jewel” with nationally-recognized natural, scenic and recreational value that attracts visitors from all over the world. She further stated that the designation would provide a “necessary voice” in ensuring that the River's scenic and recreational values are maintained.

Margaret Miner, Executive Director – Rivers Alliance of Connecticut: In her testimony, Ms. Miner stated that preservation of the River's “ecology, scenic values, and recreational opportunities” would be ensured through this designation. She further explains that the importance of the Housatonic River and its tributary were initially recognized back in 1970 when the possibility of a “Wild and Scenic” designation was first being studied.

Testimony similar to those expressed by the above proponents was also submitted by the following individuals:

Sean Hayden, Executive Director and Curtis Read, Chairman – Northwest Conservation District

David Bingham, M.D. – Salem Resident

Nicholas Moore – Sharon Resident

Tom Burgess – Wilton Resident

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

None Expressed

Reported by: Jared Savas

Date: 2/26/16