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Rivers Alliance of CT Priority Topics

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Photo courtesy of Diane Friend Edwards
Know Your Flow! - Page Updated Weekly
Rivers Alliance Comments on DEEP's Diversion Regulation Improvement
Dec 15: 27% of CT Rivers and Streams Breaking Low Flow Records; 75% Are Dangerously Low
Oct 20: The US Drought Monitor shows 89% of Connecticut in Severe Drought, a small increase in area since last week.
Sep 9: Naugatuck River in Thomaston approaching lowest flow ever recorded since record-keeping began in 1960
Aug 30: Know Your Flow: Half of CT Rivers and Streams Still Have Very Low Flows
Know Your Flow! Keep a Weather Eye Out for Drought, Flash Flooding, Sewage
South Central Coastal River Basins Proposed Stream Flow Classifications
Rivers Alliance Comments on Towantic Power Plant Proposal for Oxford
Connecticut Stream Flow Classifications: Status Update





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River Alliance of CT > Priority Topics > Streamflow >


Rivers Alliance of Connecticut Comments on
DEEP Proposed Regulation Concerning:
Water Diversion Exemptions
Tracking Number: PR2016-053


Click here for the actual regulatory language. 
Click here for the state page that has links to all documents pertaining to this proposal.

Rivers Alliance comments:

Rivers Alliance strongly supports this proposed regulation. We regard it as clarification and validation of the statutory intent to provide exemptions from the Water Diversion Policy Act to, at most, water system distribution areas in use in 1983, when diversion registrations were filed.

The Water Diversion Policy Act (1982) set up a permitting system for water diversions in order to ensure that environmental and ecological protections were in place as far as possible when new sources of water supply were being developed. (A diversion is any pumping of water or taking of surface water.) Existing diversions were exempted from the requirement for a permit and, thus, from environmental review, so long as they reported these diversions to the state.

Since the founding or Rivers Alliance in 1992, we have seen that overuse of registrations harms streams year after year, and has led to the most bitter water controversies, including the following: the Shepaug River case (town and land trusts versus Waterbury); the Mill River case in New Haven; the drying up of the Fenton River by UConn; the proposal to pipe water from the Farmington River watershed to UConn; and the sale of large volumes of registered water for retail distribution beyond the service area and even the state. 

The creation and realignment of exclusive service areas in the WUCC process is especially concerning because only water utilities are WUCC members, with one representative from each Council of Governments. Each of the three WUCCs  has hundreds of members, but no members representing customers or the environment. The proposed amendment is essential to protect state waters. In fact we feel it should have been made stronger by reflecting the original statute rather than subsequent embellishments. 

We believe it is necessary to make this regulatory change immediately because Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUUCs), established by law under the oversight of the Department of Public Health, have dramatically accelerated the effort to establish exclusive service areas statewide, leaving no corner of the state without an exclusive service area, even if no utility is yet present in the area. In the last few years, service areas have been combined, expanded, and redrawn. This matters because utilities have been granted exemptions from diversion permitting req Thus, a utility that wants to sell, say, 5 million gallons of water per day, could by acquisition or other merger send that water out of basin, through numerous towns, to new customers, without any environmental review of the diversion, as long as it had access to the 5 million gallons under the registration filed in 1983.

Here are remarks that we have made to our network:

“[DEEP] has officially announced a regulatory amendment to put a stop to the ever- expanding claims by water utilities for areas in which they can divert large quantities of water without any environmental review. In 1982, water utilities were given certain grandfathered rights to keep control of waters they were already managing. The grandfathered rights depended upon a utility registering with the state its water systems, the volume of water, its uses, and a description of the system. These filings are called registrations. The process has had unforeseen consequences.

Approximately 75 percent of the volume of water supply is taken through a registration, with no permitting or environmental review required.  or environmental review required.  

Approximately 84 percent of allowed water takings for water supply are done through registrations, not permits.  There is no environmental review. There is no need even to show that the volume of water allocated in a registration actually exists. 

This means that in Connecticut a registration can be used to take all the water out of a stream. For example, registrations allowing the pumping of water from the watershed of Coppermine Brook in Bristol amount to 36.6 million gallons per day! There isn’t that much water in the stream. In the last two years, it has been totally dried up,  just above a state trout management area. 

To make matters worse, it appears that utilities can pipe registered water far beyond the areas that they served in 1982, when the Water Diversion Policy Act set up the registration system. 

Water system distribution areas became service areas, which became something called exclusive service areas, sometimes capped as Exclusive Service Areas (which sounds more important). 

Exclusive service areas, recently and currently, are being created, redrawn, merged, and expanded by Water Utility Coordinating Committees, or WUCCs. The aim is to create a mosaic of utility monopolies in which customers are allocated to one utility or another. DPH has long pursued the unification of water suppliers because the hundreds of small suppliers pose regulatory difficulties. (The position of Rivers Alliance is that, if this mosaic pattern and a trend toward unification represent state policy, then advocates for customers and the environment should have a vote.)    



Thank you



Margaret Miner, Executive Director
Rivers Alliance of CT


Comments can be viewed on their website after they are reviewed by staff.




South Central Coastal River Basins Proposed Stream Flow Classifications

The Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) has prepared maps of proposed Stream Flow Classifications for the South Central Coastal River Basins. These classifications will determine how well the river is treated under the Stream Flow Regulation. Class 1 is reserved for streams with high-quality flows, which are to be protected under the regulation. Class 2 includes streams able to support river fish, although there may be problem areas. Class 3 includes rivers used for water supply; they are all impaired to some extent, but the regulation specifies the quantity of flow that must be maintained under various conditions. Class 4 would include rivers assumed to be largely hopeless, as a result of flow interruptions and contamination, but these streams will ne initially classified as Class 3.

Public information sessions were held at the South Central Regional Council of Governments in North Haven on June 9, 2015. A short presentation on how the Stream Flow Classification maps were developed was given, copies of the maps were available for inspection, and Department staff was on hand to answer questions at these information sessions.

The maps, and more information, are available online at http:// www.ct.gov/ deep/ cwp/ view.asp. Such maps include river and stream segments in the following towns: Ansonia, Berlin, Bethany, Branford, Bristol, Cheshire, Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Derby, Durham, East Haven, Essex, Guilford, Haddam, Hamden, Killingworth, Madison, Meriden, Middlefield, Middletown, Milford, New Britain, New Haven, North Branford, North Haven, Old Saybrook, Orange, Plainville, Prospect, Southington, Wallingford, Westbrook, West Haven, Wolcott, and Woodbridge.

This may be of particular interest to friends of the Quinnipiac River, Branford River, West River, and East Rivers in Guilford, the Hammonasset River, Menunketesuck River, Patchogue River, the Oyster River, the Indian River, Chatfield Hollow Brook, Neck River, Farm River, Mill River, and West River New Haven, Milford's Indian River and Wepawaug River, Hamden's Wintergreen Brook, Wharton Brook, Muddy River, Willow Brook, Tenmile River, Sodom Brook, Broad Brook, Harbor Brook, and Misery Brook.


Rivers Alliance Comments on Towantic Power Plant Proposal for Oxford

The public turned out in large numbers (hundreds) on January 15, 2015, for a Siting Council site visit and public hearing on the proposed power plant in Oxford. The event was covered in the print press and television. Rivers Alliance was involved in negotiations for the original, smaller facility permitted in 1999. The current plant has almost twice the capacity. Rivers Alliance expressed concern over the large out-of-basin water transfer being planned. This would be between 200,000 and one million gallons per day from the small Pomperaug River watershed to the Naugatuck River wastewater treatment plant. Rivers Alliance comments are below. Click here for the comments of the Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition, which has become a party to the proceedings.  


TO: The Connecticut Siting Council, January 15, 2015

FROM: Rivers Alliance of Connecticut

RE: Docket 192B Towantic Energy LLC

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut is the statewide, non-profit coalition of river organizations, individuals, and businesses formed to protect and enhance Connecticut's waters by promoting sound water policies, uniting and strengthening the state's many river groups, and educating the public about the importance of water stewardship. Our 450 members include almost all of the state�s river and watershed conservation groups, representing many thousand Connecticut residents.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this application for a modified Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for a dual-cycle power plant in Oxford. Rivers Alliance first encountered the proposal for this plant in 1999, accompanying Dr. Marc Taylor (co-founder of the Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition) in some of his negotiations with the applicant and the staff of the Siting Council. Rivers Alliance simultaneously was an intervenor in two other dual-cycle plants proposed in Connecticut at that time.

The obvious problem associated with the proposed Oxford plant in 1999 was that a large facility was to be sited on a small river. Now an even larger facility is being proposed on the same small and evidently more stressed watershed. You have heard objections to this plan for many, many reasons. We will speak only of the water aspects of the project.

We rely with confidence on the testimony of the Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition (PRWC) for data and analysis. As you know, PRWC is a science-oriented organization. Back in 1999, on a close call, Dr. Taylor eschewed outright opposition to the plant, asking instead for protective conditions and more science studies of the river and watershed. Thanks to a major investment by PRWC and the state of Connecticut, we now do have more science; and it confirms the common-sense perception that this plant is problematic, posing significant risk to water resources.

Prominent questions include:

Is the necessary water guaranteed to be available from the Heritage utility at all times going forward? If not, is there a plan B?

Will the Naugatuck sewage treatment plant be able to handle the increased volume without further impairment of the river?

The water will be conveyed out of the basin. Can the applicant demonstrate that the proposed water withdrawals will not impair water quality and aquatic life in the watershed? At what point will the applicant commit to shutting down the facility if impairments of the resource or supply shortages are occurring? Who will enforce the commitment?

Will the goal be no degradation of the resource? What are the relevant groundwater and surface-water classifications in the 2014 Integrated Water Quality Report prepared under the Clean Water Act? What is a healthy streamflow for the river?

Why is the new plant larger rather than smaller than the previously permitted facility? Approval by the Siting Council in 1999 was clearly a close call. Are there feasible, more modest alternatives to the size and operational functions?

Given the water demand, why is there not more water storage on site?

Wetlands number 1 has apparently grown in area. What�s going on there? How can total filling of a wetlands be a minimal wetlands impact? Was anyone monitoring the filling already done? Can this wetlands impact be avoided? If mitigation is planned, who will oversee the project long term?

Have diversions and allocations in the watershed changed since 1999? For example, there is a relatively new diversion (impoundment) permitted to Woodbury Ski and Racquet, which decreases downstream flow to the Pomperaug because of snow-making.

Who will enforce conditions imposed by the Siting Council and see to it that the plant is constructed and operated as described? Lack of oversight and enforcement is a recurring problem in the state�s infrastructure work. (At the Kleen Energy plant in Middletown, confusion as to authorities and processes on site led not only to harm to the river but, later, to a lethal explosion.)

One non-water comment: The estimate of permanent jobs created seems way too high. New, efficient power plants can be managed with very few employees.

I know that you will give this application full attention and carefully analyze all alternatives.


Margaret Miner Executive Director



Connecticut Stream Flow Classificationssss

October 7, 2014

Status Update:  CT DEEP has finished classifying streams in the NE area of the state as required by the streamflow-protection law of 2012. Click here for the relevant DEEP web page.

The text there reads in part: 

The stream flow classifications for the Southeast Coastal, Pawcatuck and Thames Major Basins have been finalized as of October 7, 2014.
Statement of Reasons: Response to Comments
Public notice of map finalization 10/7/2014
Interactive map of stream flow classifications    


Those of you who commented (or intended to) may be especially interested in the Statement of Reasons: Response to Comments. Many of the same issues will come up as DEEP moves to classify the streams in the South Central Coast area of the state. Rivers Alliance will publicize the draft classifications as they become available for comment. 

Streamflow Archives


Rivers Alliance of Connecticut
PO Box 1797, 7 West Street 3rd Floor, Litchfield, CT 06759-1797
rivers@riversalliance.org, www.riversalliance.org