It couldn’t happen here could it? High heat, algal blooms, and water diversions create river dead zones and huge fish kills. We can do better even if it gets hotter? Yes, if we rapidly implement streamflow protections and continue to fight for laws, policies, and practices that keep streams clean and cool. It’s a fulltime job.
The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) will hold two Information Sessions on the proposed classifications, both on Tuesday July 24, one from 2:00 to 4:00 PM, the second from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. Both sessions will be at the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, 1 Riverside Road, in Sandy Hook (Newtown), CT.
Here is a link to the DEEP website for more information about the proposed classifications.
Comments on the proposal are due September 21, 2018. Rivers Alliance would be happy to work on this with you.
A quick search of the full Plan shows the word streamflow is used 347 times in its 615 pages. Once adopted, the Plan can help to manage our state's waters with protection of streamflow always a high priority.
However, it appears that the State Water Plan, that so many people, agencies, groups, and businesses have been working on for years, is dead in the water. As Rivers Alliance informed our membership in an email on May 3: "Rivers Alliance had one specific desired outcome for the water planning of the last two years: that it no long be legal in Connecticut to pump or dam a river dry (except in cases of a temporary public health emergency). The Plan moves slightly, but only slightly, in that direction. Healthy streams and rivers still generally come last.
We plan for a new, more vigorous effort in the months ahead. We think there will be new and better opportunities for the public to speak and be heard."
Stream flow protection in Connecticut depends on a process of stream classification by CT DEEP. These classifications are extremely important to the future of each stream. DEEP recently finished the classifications for the Connecticut River Basin. Here is a link to the DEEP website for more information about the proposed classifications. Comments on the proposal are due June 2, 2017. Rivers Alliance would be happy to work on this with you. Click here for more information about Connecticut streamflow standards and regulations.
The maps are available online at http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?q=434018. Such maps include river and stream segments in the following towns: Avon, Barkhamsted, Berlin, Bloomfield, Bolton, Bristol, Burlington, Canton, Chester, Colchester, Colebrook, Cromwell, Deep River, Durham, East Granby, East Haddam, East Hampton, East Hartford, East Lyme, East Windsor, Ellington, Enfield, Essex, Farmington, Glastonbury, Granby, Haddam, Hartford, Hartland, Harwinton, Hebron, Lyme, Manchester, Marlborough, Middlefield, Middletown, New Britain, New Hartford, Newington, Norfolk, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Plainville, Plymouth, Portland, Rocky Hill, Salem, Simsbury, Somers, South Windsor, Stafford, Suffield, Tolland, Vernon, West Hartford, Wethersfield, Winchester, Windsor, and Windsor Locks.
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.
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.)
IN THE PROPOSED REGULATION AMENDMENT, DEEP DRAWS A LINE THAT SAYS: A UTILITY SHALL NO LONGER BE EXEMPT FROM ENVIRONMENTAL PERMITTING WHEN IT MOVES WATER INTO NEWLY BALLOONING AND MERGED EXCLUSIVE SERVICE AREAS.
Margaret Miner, Executive Director
Rivers Alliance of CT