CT State Water Planning
Dec 16, 2016
Drought Plan written comments are due to PURA no later than 4:00 p.m. on Friday, December 16, 2016.
At the request of Rivers Alliance, PURA is streamlining the commenting process: you can now e-mail them in an attachment to Linda Baez, at Linda.Baez@ct.gov. Be sure to include the phrase "16-10-12 Drought Plan Comments" and your name or the name any organization(s) you are representing in the subject line of the e-mail to Ms. Baez.
Ms. Baez will post the comments under the subject Docket, print a hard copy and put the hard copy of the comments in the Docket file.
Should you experience problems attempting to file comments through the Authority's Web Filing System, please contact the Help Desk at DEEP.Helpdesk@ct.gov or by calling (860) 424-3882.
The drought plan is a thoughtful, informative, and exceptionally well written document. The science is excellent. We thank the Drought Plan Workgroup for undertaking this important task. But we see some barriers to implementation and have a few other concerns. Our major concerns are addressed to some extent by in the cover letter to the Plan, which should be read carefully.
The stateï¿½s drought planning is done primarily by the Interagency Drought Workgroup, which consists of experts from different state agencies, and was established informally in the 1980s. The groupï¿½s authority has not been clearly defined. It lacks a clear organizational structure for setting work goals and making decisions.
There is an important emphasis on collecting vital data for drought planning and response. For example, the plan outlines the importance of tasks to: "Regularly monitor the primary indicators of drought; systematically collect, analyze, and disseminate real-time drought related information. ... Identify geographic extent of dry conditions and determine affected regions." But it is not clear who in the government is responsible to accumulate the information regularly, by what methods, and to who does that person(s) report?
It is critically important that the makeup and responsibilities of the IDW be established in some sort of official instrument. Where there is a collection of professionals, there should be some sort of process for dealing with split opinions. Without a better structure, there will be a lack of predictability and accountability.
The Plan offers new, different names for drought stages that differ from those used by water utilities, those currently used by the state, and those used by some national organizations. We feel the addition of new names is confusing, even though intended to avoid confusion. Our feeling is that utilities and others should follow state guidelines, using the same terms for the same conditions.
A regional or nationwide drought monitor, such as the U.S Drought Monitor, could be used as a threshold standard for deciding drought stages. It would be helpful if state drought stages aligned better, at least generally, with nationally recognized drought stages. Connecticut could still have its own refinements with respect to criteria.
Among these criteria for water conservation, we are concerned with the present emphasis on reservoir levels. Groundwater and well levels are equally important, especially in persuading the public of the need to conserve water. In the Plan and in the cover letter, the authors identify the need for more information on groundwater systems.
There is some confusion in the reference to averages and percentiles to be used in determining drought conditions. Statistical drought triggers represent a large amount of data that can be compiled in many ways. For example, the Plan points to: "Precipitationï¿½Two months cumulative below 65% of average". For how much of the state? Counties? Watersheds? If on a particular day half the state is below 65% and half above, is that criteria met? Is that average measured by weather stations or radar data? Is it the average of all the weather stations averages in the state or is there a certain number of them that have to have measured the 65% below their own stations' averages? Will these calculations be done for the two months previous to every Tuesday? Every day? First day of the month? And so forth.
Dec 5, 2016
Excellent explanation of where we are in state water planning and policy. Thank you, Connecticut Mirror and Tom Condon.
The article uses the bottled water issue to lead into broader concerns with water across the whole state.
Want to know more?
October 31, 2016
MDC Hiding Behind Security Claim
|White Paper 1B1: Current Water Resource Management Structure REV 1 Oct 2016||This document is a summary of current water resource management structure topics, and will be incorporated into the State Water Plan (draft and final reports). This white paper describes the existing management structure at the state, regional, and local levels (including roles and responsibilities of agencies and committees), and identifies significant components of the decision-making process.|
|White Paper 1B2: Conservation and Economic Development REV 1 Oct 2016||This paper outlines land management, and summarizes land conservation plans and economic development patterns, trends, or plans as available by region. While it draws upon localized examples, this is a general examination of trends and practices at the regional level.|
|White Paper 1B3: Water Management Options REV 1 Oct 2016||This paper outlines the broad strategies that may be used to address Connecticut's water supply needs. These strategies are comprised of different methods or "options" that can be implemented independently or in combination with other options. The options can be grouped into demand management and supply management alternatives.|
|White Paper 1B4: Future Water Management Challenges (Not yet available)||This paper will identify and discuss perceived conflicts and challenges identified during the preparation of the planning process through collaboration with the WPC Steering Committee.|
|Task 1B Comments and Responses Tracking Log 10-18-2016||This document is a record of comments received so far by the consulting firm regarding the white papers and responses to those those comments. It includes the reviewer's name, page reference, section numbers, paragraph title, the comment, the response, and resolution detail, as applicable.|
There will be three additional public meetings in the next phase of the project, during the winter and spring of 2017.
For more information go to the website for the Water Planning Council (WPC). It has a calendar of meetings of the WPC and its committees.
The CT Department of Public Health (DPH) posts information about the Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCCs) that are also planning the use of the state's waters.
Rivers Alliance maintains a combined schedule of meetings on our website.
Call or email Rivers Alliance if you have questions: 860-361-9349 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sep 21, 2016
The three Connecticut Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCCs) have each prepared a Preliminary Water Supply Assessment (Preliminary Assessment) for each Connecticut Public Water Supply Management Area (PWSMA). They are requesting review and comment on the Preliminary Assessment from all interested persons. Paper copies of each document are available in each region and at Rivers Alliance's office in Litchfield. Discussion of comments received to date will be discussed at the next WUCC meeting. Links to each WUCC's webpage, and each Preliminary Assessment are below along with the release date, the next meeting date at which they will discuss comments received so far, the date that comments are due, and the contact for sending comments.
|Preliminary Assessment||Released||Next Meeting||Comments due||Send comments to|
|Sep 13||Oct 11||Oct 14|| email@example.com
|Sep 22||Oct 25||Oct 24||DRadka@ctwater.com
|Sep 14||Oct 12||Oct firstname.lastname@example.org
A Frequently Asked Questions page by the consultant is at http://www.ct.gov/dph/lib/dph/drinking_water/pdf/esa_-_frequently_asked_questions.pdf
Contact Rivers Alliance for assistance in assessing the Assessments.
June 20, 2016
Starting June 14, three WUCCs hit the ground running. They are striving to write regional water supply plans to cover the entire state within one year. Each person in the state, even someone living on an undeveloped mountaintop, will be assigned to an exclusive service area (ESA). An ESA is an area served by just one water company. Legally and under WUCC law, the needs asserted by water companies for water in pipes usually trump the needs of fish and turtles for a place to live.
To follow these regional water plans, watch the Department of Public Health (DPH) website for regular postings. http://www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?q=387352
To get notices of meetings and to voice your views, sign up with DPH at email@example.com. Also sign up with your WUCC. Each WUCC secretary is supposed to receive and distribute public comment. There are three WUCCs, each of which spans the state north to south.
The Western WUCC secretary is David Banker of the Metropolitan District Commission. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Central Corridor WUCC secretary is Brendan Avery of Hazardville Water Company, Bavery@HazardvilleWater.com.
The Eastern WUCC secretary is Sam Alexander with the Northeastern Council of Governments (which is this WUCC's planning arm), email@example.com.
Meet the chairs of the three WUCCs. In the new bylaws, these seven men are personally responsible for developing the regional water supply plans for the state. So, if you know one, say hello or ask a question, or make a request.
The Western WUCC co-chairs are Daniel Lawrence, Aquarion Water Company, and Russell Posthauer, Candlewood Springs Property Owners Association.
The Central Corridor WUCC co-chairs are Bart Halloran, Metropolitan District Commission, and David Radka of the Connecticut Water Company.
The Eastern WUCC tri-chairs are Robert Congdon, Preston First Selectman; Mark Decker, Norwich Public Utilities; and a representative of SUEZ/Putnam WPCA.
On June 14, WUUCs didn't just hit the ground running, they hit it racing. Under CT statutes, WUCCs have had the mandate to do regional water planning for over 30 years (since 1985). Over that time, they got one-seventh of the state done and got a start on another three-sevenths. They rarely met.
But interest in the WUCCs caught fire in 2014, when the state passed into law Public Act 14-163, requiring the Water Planning Council to create a comprehensive state water plan for water supply, the environment, and other societal benefits. By the end of 2015, the water utilities had decided that they needed to finish their plans not later than the deadline for completion of the state comprehensive plan (July 2017). This self-imposed deadline is now a reason for cutting back on the number of people involved in the work and the opportunities for public comment. The public comment time slot in the agendas for the first WUCC meetings was 10 minutes (although the meeting managers were somewhat flexible). Plans for going forward seem to include a fair amount of business to be done in small groups. There isn't time for involvement by a lot of people. Click on the timeline to the right for a larger version in a new tab.
In their first meetings, it took each WUCC just two hours to adopt bylaws and elect the chairs, who (according to the bylaws) will be individually responsible for producing the regional plans.
WUCCs are groups of water companies. Each of the approximately 2,000+ water companies in the state is a member of one of three WUCCs: Western, Central, or Eastern. WUCCs are supposed to assess water resources in their regions, develop supply plans, and, apparently especially important, fully partition their regions into exclusive service areas (ESAs). This exercise might be a great service to the state if were to be done as a professional-association endeavor to come up with recommendations to the Water Planning Council for prudent water supply planning. But the plans made by WUCCs, if approved by the Department of Health, become the law. Can the state water plan alter ESAs? Unclear, but evidently not.
Each WUCC has many hundreds of members, but there is no member representing rate payers or the general public, with the possible exception that each of the seven state Council of Governments is allowed one member. There is no member representing the state's environmental and ecological resources. There is no representative for health concerns.
Thus, the WUCCs are essentially cartels. They are also one of the very few state organizations that will provide no opportunity for participation by telephone or Internet, either by their own members or the public.
So that is why we are urging all water advocates around the state to do their best to make their voices heard.
June 7, 2016
Process Overlaps State Comprehensive Water Planning. Relationship Unclear. Secrecy an Issue.
When Connecticut committed to doing statewide water planning for all its water resources in 2014, water utilities and the Department of Public Health (DPH) rapidly revived the semi-dormant WUCC program for allocating water supply and water customers. WUCC stands for 'water utility coordinating committee.' The WUCC program began in 1985, with deadlines starting in 1986. The mandate was to develop seven WUCC regional water supply plans, to be combined into a WUCC statewide plan. All customers and locales were to be apportioned into exclusive service areas (ESAs). By 2014, only one plan had been approved. Three had never been started. To expedite the process, DPH reduced the seven regions to three, and, at the urging of the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), committed to completing the water supply regional plans and the statewide supply plan in one year -- from June 2016 to July 2017 (not coincidentally, the deadline for completing the state comprehensive water plan). Since 2014, WUCC plans are also required by statute to account for environmental impacts (a monumental addendum).
WUCC kick-off meetings are scheduled for next week. Each region extends from the north to Long Island Sound, roughly aligning with the watersheds for the Housatonic River, the Connecticut River, and the Thames River. Please attend if you can. Rivers Alliance will also provide reports on request.
Western WUCC. June 14. Brookfield Town Hall, 100 Pocono Road. 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Click here for the Western WUCC Eligible Member List (pdf). Click here for the Western WUCC Map (pdf).
Central WUCC. June 15. Middletown City Hall, 24 deKoven Drive. 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Click here for the Central Corridor WUCC Eligible Member List (pdf). Click here for the Central Corridor WUCC Map (pdf).
Eastern WUCC. June 17. SE CT Council of Govts., 5 Connecticut Ave., Norwich, 1 to 3 p.m. Click here for the Eastern WUCC Eligible Member List (pdf). Click here for the Eastern WUCC Map (pdf).
Only water companies are WUCC members. Environmental advocates, customer groups, etc. are not members. But DPH has pledged that the public will be able to speak.
Why You Should Care. If you want to have a say on the future of streams and wetlands in your town; if you want to have a say on whether your town should add public water-supply lines; if you want to have a say on groundwater pumping and groundwater quality; if you are interested in water, period -- raise your voice now!
Two High-level Concerns: Consistency and Secrecy. Consultants have just signed contracts to develop the WUCC supply plan and the state water plan. Milone & MacBroom is the consultant for WUCCs and is also on the team of the consultant for the state plan, CDM Smith. The relationship between the two processes is unclear. For example, will the consultants be working with the same data? Will they have the same planning goals for a region? Second, since 2003 and continuing through the 2016 legislative session, water utilities have fought hard and successfully to keep vital data away from the public. They have unique privileges and exemptions in the Freedom of Information (FOI) law. The rationale is security against enemy attacks, which is an important goal. But most of the secrecy appears off-target. For example, water utilities have just successfully argued that they need to keep secret the yields of wellfields that have not yet been built and may never be built. So if state planners or citizens are interested in the quantity and quality of groundwater in areas claimed by water companies, they may be out of luck.
For questions or more information on how to participate in or follow the dual planning efforts, contact Rivers Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-361-9349.
The DPH point person is Eric McPhee at 860-509-7333. The DPH webpage describing WUCCs is at http://www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?q=387352.
June 5, 2016
There are two parallel water plans in the works for Connecticut. The Water Planning Council (WPC) is developing the comprehensive state water plan mandated by the legislature in 2014. The WPC consists of one member from each of the following agencies having responsibility for water: Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP); Department of Public Health (DPH); Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA), which is part of DEEP; and the Office of Policy and Management (OPM), essentially the governor's agency in charge of the state budget and planning.
The comprehensive water plan is required to take into account the needs of the environment and of water supply (water delivered via a pipe). The water supply plan is required to take into account needs related to supply, of course, and also environmental factors.
Development of the water supply plan is headed by DPH working through regional groups of water suppliers. These are Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCCs), whose members are water companies in the region and one representative from each Council of Governments in the regions. There are no membership slots for either watershed groups or customers. They may speak in public comment period.
The WUCC law is about 30 years old, and originally there were seven WUCC regions. Two years ago, DPH held public meetings on a proposal to shrink the number of WUCC regions to four; the result of the hearings was a new statewide WUCC configuration of three large regions. These roughly follow the three main river basins running north to south to Long Island Sound. The watersheds are the Housatonic, Connecticut, and Thames basins.
DPH has contracted with the consulting firm Milone & MacBroom to work with the three WUCCs to develop their regional plans and an umbrella state plan. The original schedule was one year per region, but, at the forceful recommendation of the Metropolitan District Commission (the Hartford region water utility), the schedule has been accelerated to require all WUCC regional plans to be completed on the same schedule as the comprehensive water plan, which is due to be finished in July 2017 and to be delivered to the legislature in January 2018.
The planning process is additionally complicated by the fact that all state and local plans are supposed to be consistent with OPM's plan of conservation and development.
The kick-off dates for the first meetings of the WUCCs are June 14, 15, and 17. The locations will in Brookfield, Middletown, Norwich. For more information check DPH's website: www.ct.gov/dph/WUCC.
Feb 17, 2016
Beginning in 2014, under Public Act 14-163, the state embarked on comprehensive water planning. The responsible party is the Water Planning Council (the WPC), which is made up of representatives of the four agencies that deal most with water: Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), Department of Public Health (DPH), Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA), and Office of Policy and Management (OPM). PURA used to be the Department of Public Utility Control, but became part of DEEP in 2011 when energy was added to environment in the agency's mission under the direction of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty (2011).
The impetus for the creation of a statewide water plan in Public Act 14-163 came from the controversial proposal by the Hartford utility, the Metropolitan District Commission, to supply water from reservoirs in the Farmington River watershed across the state to UConn. This water transfer was opposed by many, and led to the question: Doesn't Connecticut have a plan for water allocation? The answer was, no.
In October 2014, the Water Planning Council approved a year-long contract (MOU) with UConn that assigned Vice President Tom Callahan to manage the first steps in creating a statewide water plan. UConn offered Mr. Callahan's services pro bono for two days per week. UConn is a major stakeholder in water-supply matters, which has the disadvantage of an appearance of conflict of interest and the advantage of expertise in water policy. In 2015, with the expiration of the MOU, Mr. Callahan resigned from UConn, and offered to continue to work on water planning as a volunteer. The Water Planning Council welcomed this offer, and Mr. Callahan has continued his service.
By statute, the WPC must appoint and consult with a multi-stakeholder Advisory Group. Since 2001, this Advisory Group has worked on water research and recommendations for management. The group is typically chaired by one representative of water supply interests and one environmental advocate. At this time, the chairs come from Connecticut Water Company (Maureen Westbrook) and Rivers Alliance of Connecticut (Margaret Miner).
Early in 2015, the Water Planning Council created a Steering Committee specifically to work on the state water plan. The Steering Committee is also a multi-stakeholder committee, similar to the Advisory Group but with a broader range of expertise. The Steering Committee includes the Water Planning Council and representatives of the Advisory Group. Here are the members: Beth Barton, Day Pitney; John Betkoski, WPC Member, PURA; Larry Bingaman, South Central CT Regional Water Authority; Ellen Blaschinski, WPC Member, DPH; Chris Clark, Mohegan Tribe; Virginia de Lima USGS - scientist emerita; Samuel Gold, Lower CT River Valley COG; Bart Halloran, Metropolitan District Commission; Elin Katz, Office of Consumer Counsel; David LeVasseur, WPC Member, OPM; Gene Likens, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies; Andrew Lord, Lord Law LLC; Joe McGee, The Business Council of Fairfield County; Margaret Miner, Advisory Group Member, Rivers Alliance of CT; Robert Moore, Policy Workgroup Chair; Susan Stratton Sayre, Smith College, Economics; Michael Sullivan, WPC Member, DEEP; Maureen Westbrook, Advisory Group Member, Connecticut Water Company; Julie Zimmerman, Yale University, Environmental Engineering.
The Steering Committee has generated three important work groups that have provided information and recommendations relating to policy; water plans developed in other states; and science and technology. The Committee as a whole has not yet had the opportunity to take the lead on issues.
The planning process is moving forward on a tight timeline and a tight budget. The governor and General Assembly have approved $500,000 per year for two years via bonding. Judging from budgets in other states, this will be about half the support needed to collect data, do the policy and planning, and go through the approval process. More concerning is the risk that next year's funding will be diminished as a result of the state's ongoing budget woes.
The plan is supposed to be completed in 2017 for submittal to the General Assembly in January 2018. That leaves less than two years to complete a tremendous volume of work. To avoid the time-consuming state process for hiring contractors, the Water Planning Council signed an MOU with a regional political entity, the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC -- pronounced Newypik) to act as a general contractor. NEIWPCC's point person on the project is Jane Ceraso, a specialist in water protection. In February, NEIWPCC broadcast a request for qualifications. (To see the RFQ, click here.) One or more contractors and a scope of work should be approved before the 'darling buds of May' appear. Or, we may learn that the scope of work and rate of pay is not adequate to attract capable experts. Then, adjustments will follow.
Simultaneously, water companies, represented in three regional Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCCs), are developing a statewide plan for water supply with oversight from the Department of Public Health. DPH's original concept was that the regional plans would be developed sequentially. However, the influential Hartford utility, the Metropolitan District Commission, insisted that the WUCC plans be finished by summer 2017 so that they could be taken into consideration in the statewide plan for all waters (as the law requires, actually). Rivers Alliance has repeatedly opposed this second planning track on the grounds that it will reduce conservation opportunities for natural streams, under an unstructured, exclusionary system of decision making and governance. (No customers, no environmental advocates, no members of the general public can be WUCC members.)
In sum, at this time, substantial progress has been made toward comprehensive water planning for Connecticut. The Water Planning Council is committed to achieving a useful, prudent plan. The pitfalls are numerous. But it is reasonable to believe that this effort will bring at least some good results and possibly a good, comprehensive plan.
To keep up to date on all water planning events and news, go to the excellent website created by OPM staffer Eric Lindquist for the Water Planning Council. (Click here.)
Aug 3, 2015
Beginning in 2014, under Public Act 14-163, the state has embarked on comprehensive water planning. The responsible party is the Water Planning Council (the WPC)), which is made up of representatives of the four agencies that deal most with water: Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), Department of Public Health (DPH), Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA), and Office of Policy and Management (PURA). Actually, this is now three and a half agencies, as the formerly independent Department of Public Utility Control was merged into the DEEP when energy was added to environment in the agency's mission in 2011 under the direction of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty (2011). The Annual Report to the General Assembly and Work Plan for 2015 issued in February is their official report.
After the 2014 legislative session, the Water Planning Council (WPC) proposed to contract with UConn and V.P. Tom Callahan to manage the state planning project. In October 2014, the Water Planning Council approved a year-long contract (MOU) with UConn that assigned Mr. Callahan to manage pro bono the first steps in creating a statewide water plan. UConn offered Mr. Callahan's services for two days per week. The decision was controversial because of UConn's position as a major stakeholder in water-supply matters.
By statute, the WPC must appoint and consult with a multi-stakeholder Advisory Group. Since 2001, this Advisory Group has worked on water research and recommendations for management. The group is typically chaired by one representative of water supply interests and one environmental advocate. At this time, the chairs come from Connecticut Water Company (Maureen Westbrook) and Rivers Alliance of Connecticut (Margaret Miner).
Early in 2015, the Advisory Group learned that it would not be the lead advisor in water planning. That role evidently would be assigned to a new multi-stakeholder group of experts and policy leaders, the Steering Committee. This committee includes the four members of the WPC and the two co-chairs of the Advisory Group, plus about a dozen more experts in economics, law, science, engineering, and so forth. This committee has spun off two subcommittees, one on policy and one on science and technology. It is not yet clear how many steerers can attend on a regular basis and what their role will be. The same can be said for the longstanding Advisory Group; it probably will be assigned work on "outreach".
In May, the state contracted with Podziba Policy Mediation of Brookline MA to facilitate a retreat at which the Steering Committee would discuss planning issues. The retreat, which took place early in July, involved high-level policy conversation and a fair amount of catching up on the part of those not fully familiar with the state's byzantine water law. It was open to the public, and attended primarily by members of the Advisory Group and other regular attendees at water policy discussions. Click here for the Workshop Summary
In mid-July, Tom Callahan and the WPC announced that the MOU with UConn was being extended another 12 weeks, but Mr. Callahan would only be available one day per week.
There followed a shuffle of meeting dates and agendas. A joint meeting of the WPC and the Steering Committee was canceled, and it was announced that henceforth these two groups (which comprise many of the same people) would meet alternate months, rather than the monthly schedule used by the WPC.
A surprise item on the WPC agenda coming up (as this piece is being written) is approval of a major Request For Proposals for a pilot planning project in the Southeast region, around New London. The estimated budget for this complex project is $530,000. Click here for the "Summary Proposal for SYE SWUDS project final".
Meanwhile, earlier in the summer, DPH issued an RFP on its own, not brought to the WPC, for work on the misbegotten WUCCs (Water Utility Coordinating Committees). These committees are supposed to create regional resource supply plans and to divide up the state's water customers into exclusive service areas. The process began 30 years ago, never got far (only one regional plan was approved), but is now is being dramatically accelerated, apparently to get claims in on the state's water before the fish start speaking up. DPH is very much into secrecy, so the budget under this RFP is "confidential", even though it has been repeatedly described in the WPC as $250,000. Here's an excerpt:
3. Contract Awards. The award of any contract pursuant to this RFP is dependent upon the availability of funding to the Department. The Department anticipates the following:ing:
Total Funding Available: Confidential
Number of Awards: 1
Contract Cost: Confidential
Contract Term: 48 months
Secrecy is a major theme in the DPH planning project. Even the vaunted sole WUCC Regional Plan will be redacted so as not to reveal the key data, although the plan was created by many dozens of people and has been available to hundreds more. The company water supply plans needed for regional planning will be available electronically and unredacted to the contractor (a benefit not accorded Rivers Alliance or other members of the public); however the RFP contains numerous commands to the contractor regarding his or her responsibility not to let anyone see the secrets, such as the safe yield of a water source. DPH is also keeping secret how it plans to hold meetings and do planning working with redacted information.
Despite process missteps and confusions, the outlook of those involved in statewide water planning seems generally optimistic. California reminds us every day that water is too valuable to waste or take for granted. There is a new urgency to the development of a plan for Connecticut that protects our streams, aquifers, estuaries, and drinking water.
ANALYSIS OF GROUPS INVOLVED IN STATE WATER PLANNING BY AFFILIATION AND INTEREST: BROKEN DOWN BY MEMBERS' AFFILIATIONS
Few Independent Voices for Aquatic Species and Habitat
WATER PLANNING COUNCIL (WPC)
By statute the WPC is responsible to develop statewide comprehensive water planning for protection of supply and environment. It consists of four state entities with authority regarding water: Office of Policy & Management (OPM); Department of Public Health (DPH); Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP); Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA, now part of DEEP). Reports to the General Assembly and Governor.
Total Members: 4. Affiliations: 4 state agencies.
WPC STEERING COMMITTEE (WPCSC)
This is a multi-stakeholder group, created by the WPC to assist in state water planning. All four WPC members are also on the Steering Committee, which reports to WPC.
Total Members: 18. Affiliations: 7 government agencies (5 state, 1 regional, 1 Indian nation);
3 water/wastewater utilities; 2 environmental groups; 3 academics; 2 business/industry associations; 1 professional consultant.
WPCSC SUBCOMMITTEE ON SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
This group was created by the WPC Steering Committee to analyze water-data needs, data availability, science standards, and capabilities of relevant technology. Reports to WPCSC.
Total Members: 20 (flexible). Affiliations: 7 government agencies (5 state, 1 regional, 1 federal);
3 water utilities; 3 academics; 3 environmental groups; 2 professional consultants;
2 business/industry associations.
WPCSC SUBCOMMITTEE ON POLICY
Created by the WPC Steering Committee to study and advise on policy. Reports to Steering Committee. Total Members: 14. Affiliations: 6 water utilities; 3 government agencies (state);
2 environmental groups; 1 business/industry association; 1 professional consultant; 1 academic.
WPC ADVISORY GROUP (WPCAG)
This statute-based multi-stakeholder group serves to advise the WPC. Reports to WPC.
Total Members: 19. Affiliations: 6 water utilities; 4 environmental groups (1 agency-linked);
4 business/industry associations; 3 government agencies (state, local, regional) local agency;
1 municipality; 1 academic.
WPCAG WORK GROUP ON DRINKING-WATER WATERSHED LANDS
This work group was created by the WPACG and WPC to study and make recommendations for protection of source-water watersheds. Reports to WPCAG and WPC. Total Members: 13. Affiliations: 6 government agencies (1 regional); 4 water utilities; 2 environmental groups; 1 professional association
Under Public Act 14-163, the state is embarked on comprehensive water
planning. After the end of the 2014 legislative session, the Water
Planning Council proposed as a first step to contract with UConn and
V.P. Tom Callahan to manage the project. Subsequently, the WPC modified
the agreement to reflect points made by their Advisory Group and
others. Many of you commented on the modified plan, which was
posted on the website of the Council on Environmental quality. The gist
of the modifications and comments was to emphasize the participation of
stakeholders and to restrict UConn's role to management functions. Some
felt that UConn was too conflicted to be the manager. See the article
below The Water Planning Council Seeks Public Opinion on Water Planning for links to the original MOU.
Friday (October 17, 2014 ), the Water Planning Council approved a contract (MOU) with UConn to manage the first steps in creating a statewide comprehensive water plan. The MOU is considerably different from the one posted for comment. Inclusion of stakeholders and their recommendation is cut way back.
Also, the MOU specifically states that Mr. Callahan shall not be required to do anything that is not in the best interest of UConn.
The WPC, at the Friday meeting, without discussion voted unanimously to accept this MOU. The meeting room was quite full. The vote was received in silence. The outlook is uncertain.
What's a WUCC and why are you in one? All Connecticut is divided into seven parts -- called WUCCs. A WUCC is a Water Utility Committee. In a WUCC, water utilities get together with the Department of Public Health (DPH) and divide up the customers among themselves. The program has existed since 1985 but has foundered. Only one region has completed the WUCC process, which requires writing a regional water-supply plan. Three WUCCs have never met at all. Most of the others have met only rarely.
However, in the past 18 months, there's been a flurry of WUCC activity. Why? The state has embarked on comprehensive water planning (under Public Act 14-163, An Act Concerning the Responsibilities of the Water Planning Council). "Comprehensive" means a plan that does more than protect water for consumers; the plan must also protect the state's natural waters -- wetlands, headwaters, streams, rivers, lakes, and estuaries. This approach threatens the primacy of WUCCs; someone else might want some of that water.
Therefore, the WUCCs are hustling to persuade legislators that they're alive and important. They've done a good job. Of the $350,000 ticked for water planning in the last session, it's said that $250,000 is going to go to WUCCs via DPH.
Rivers Alliance has been arguing that the WUCC legislation expired long ago, and that environmentalists and customers must have a role in deciding our how water is conserved and consumed. This balance is sometimes called fish versus faucet. We speak for the fish. If you want to know when a WUCC is meeting in your region, call us at 860-361-9349 or email us at email@example.com.
Recently, the Department of Public Health conducted a public hearing on proposed changes to WUCC boundaries. Rivers Alliance and several others commented negatively on the process. All testimony is posted on the DPH website at http://www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?a=3139&q=387352.
In addition, on September 18, Rivers Alliance sent the following email message to the Water Planning Council.
Dear Water Planning Council Members and Colleagues:
I had the impression at the meeting on the 16th that it would be prudent to summarize the key points made in my comments to hearing Officer Keenan on the proposed alterations in WUCC areas and the planning process. I do this on behalf of Rivers Alliance and not in connection with service on the WPCAG. (The written comments are attached.)
First, I do not believe DPH can legitimately proceed with a process that by statute has a deadline of 1986. An extension should be requested of the CGA to authorize any further WUCC development.
Third, most of the so-called WUCC boundaries were never legally established under the timeline and criteria in the statute (Sec. 25-33e through h). The exception (arguably) would be the boundaries in the Southeast WUCC, which is the only WUCC having a DPH-approved regional plan as is required in the statute for the establishment of service boundaries.
Fourth, most of the decisions made in the relatively rare (and usually poorly attended) meetings of those WUCCs which have been convened are clouded at best. There is no statute-based structure or set of rules for making decisions. Moreover, since 2003, the public has not had the right to access to data on which boundary decisions would be made.
Fifth, in setting WUCC boundaries, there are eight criteria to be considered. There is little if any documentation that these criteria were considered in preparation for the 2014 hearings (or informational meetings). DPH has made the point that it has broad authority with respect to water planning. That is true. DPH does not necessarily need the WUCC statute to do statewide planning. But the only way a legally valid Exclusive Service Area can be established is through the WUCC statute. The WUCC statute is not only expired, it is out of date and antithetical to prudent 21st century water planning. It is based on the unexamined premise that the state's water supply should be managed by a conglomeration of monopolies, only some of which (the private companies) are regulated with respect to the interests of the customers. For example, we have heard often that it is inefficient and even absurd to have two water companies running mains to the same street and neighborhood. Maybe so, but shouldn't the customers get to choose which utility will be billing them? And which utility they would prefer to have treating their water?
Rivers Alliance does not have a position on this question other than believing it should asked preparatory to water planning. And obviously supply planning needs customer representation. Where is the OCC? The WUCC statute is also antithetical to the type of water planning contemplated in PA 14-163, which calls for balanced protections for fish and faucet. The thrust of WUCC work is to allocate all existing and potential water sources among utilities that lay claim to the water. There is no environmental representation. DEEP can observe but not vote. Watershed protection groups can observe and comment (if they happen to hear of the meeting); but they have no vote. They also have no right to see the data on which the decisions are being made. Most of the points made here were also made by one or more other commenters.
Thank you for your attention.
Here's more on the WUCC tussle:
Back in 1985, state leaders passed legislation to organize water utilities for efficient delivery of water supply. The legislation (Sec. 23-35e through h) divided the state into seven regions, and called upon the Department of Public Health (DPH) and water companies to create regional water supply plans. These plans were to develop Exclusive Service Areas (ESAs) and to be approved by DPH. The regional committees were called Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCCS). Back then, water planning usually did mean water supply planning, so the legislation made no provision for environmental groups to be involved. Nor were customers involved. For years, the program languished, with the WUCCs seldom meeting and only one WUCC getting all the way through the process of obtaining an approved plan with associated ESAs (i.e., monopolies). Three of the seven regions never formed committees.
But in 2013-14, with state leaders call for comprehensive water planning and with the passage of a law (PA 14-163) requiring water planning, there was a surge of interest in moving ahead with WUCCs. Rivers Alliance expressed concern that the outcome of this enthusiasm would be continued predominance of supply interests over the health of rivers and the concerns of customers.
Recently, DPH held hearings (or perhaps more correctly informational meetings) on new WUCC boundaries. Almost simultaneously, the Office of Policy and Management was proposing new boundaries for Councils of Government (COGs). The comment period for the DPH hearing closed on July 15.
Rivers Alliance commented that the hearings and proposed changes were not provided for in the statute; and, even if the statute did support hearings on WUCC boundaries, planning focused exclusively on supply out of key with today’s view that water planning is best done comprehensively for all water resources.
The testimony of Rivers Alliance and others is posted on the DPH website at http://www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?a=3139&q=387352.
Background on the issue is available here. Public comments received in response to the WPC's request for public comment are posted at
Here follows the Water Planning Council announcement seeking public comment on a proposed Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Connecticut for executive assistance with state water planning. (The comment period ended September 5, 2014.)
The Water Planning Council (WPC), established pursuant to Section 25-33o of the CGS has been charged to prepare, within available appropriations, a state water plan for the management of the water resources of the state, in accordance with Public Act 14-163: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2014/ACT/pa/pdf/2014PA-00163-R00HB-05424-PA.pdf
The public act specifies what shall be included and considered in the plan and requires that the plan be completed by July 1, 2017.
The law further allows, within available appropriations, for the Office of Policy and Management, on behalf of the Water Planning Council, to enter into one or more memoranda of understanding with independent consultants for advice or assistance in developing and compiling the state water plan. Such assistance may include, but need not be limited to, data collection, storage and organization of data as deemed necessary by the Water Planning Council.
The University of Connecticut has offered to provide services at no cost to the Water Planning Council, under a Memorandum of Understanding, to provide assistance to the WPC in support of its efforts to create a state water plan as outlined in the DRAFT MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING: http:// www.dpuc.state.ct.us/ DPUCINFO.nsf/ a83f79d989c4d48b8525743a0050a53f/97510e37e4c981be85257d33004e8907/ $FILE/ draft%20WPC-UConn%20MOU.doc
The Water Planning Council is soliciting public comment, to be provided to the Council by September 5, 2014, on:
1. The Draft Memorandum of Understanding with the University and any recommendations on the process or conditions of the proposed agreement; and
2. Any recommended alternative approaches to develop the plan, with identification of anticipated costs and funding sources for such approaches
Comments should be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
or mailed to: Water Planning Council C/o Bruce Wittchen Office of Policy & Management 450 Capitol Ave, MS# 54ORG Hartford, CT 06106
The Water Planning Council shall consider comments prior to any action on the MOU at the WPC meeting on September 16 @ 1:30 pm at the office of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority @ 10 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051
Comprehensive statewide water planning is beginning this summer, as mandated in Public Act 14-163, An Act Concerning the Responsibilities of the Water Planning Council (WPC). The law requires the WPC to prepare a state water plan by July 1, 2017. The Office of Legislative Review summarizes the bill thus:
SUMMARY: This act requires the state's Water Planning Council (WPC) to, within available appropriations, prepare a state water plan by July 1, 2017. (Prior law mandated the development of a state long-range water resources management plan, but it was never developed. ) The act (1) prescribes the WPC's tasks in developing the plan, (2) establishes the plan's required content, (3) creates a procedure for public notice and comment, and (4) requires the plan to be submitted to the General Assembly for review and approval. …
The act further requires the WPC to (1) oversee the plan's implementation and periodic updates and (2) annually report on its development and implementation and any updates. It allows the Office of Policy and Management (OPM), on the WPC's behalf and within available appropriations, to enter into memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with independent consultants for advice or assistance in developing and compiling the plan, which may include data collection, storage, and organization, as the WPC considers necessary.
For more details on this complicated law, see http://www.cga.ct.gov/2014/SUM/2014SUM00163-R02HB-05424-SUM.htm
The WPC members represent the departments of energy and environmental protection, of public health, of the public utility regulatory authority, and the office of policy and management -- often called the “governor’s agency.” The acronyms are DEEP, DPH, PURA, and OPM.
At the end of June, the WPC brought forward a proposed Memorandum of Understanding with UConn for Vice President Tom Callahan to be the project manager for the state water plan. The multi-stakeholder Water Planning Council Advisory Group asked for the opportunity to propose amendments, and was given that chance. The MOU stipulates that UConn will pay for Mr. Callahan for two days per week of water-planning work and that major decisions for planning will be made by the WPC, while Mr. Callahan, as project manager, will be responsible for coordination and implementation.
At a WPC meeting on August 5, 2014, the members decided not take action on the proposed MOU. Feedback from the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Farmington River Watershed Association (FRWA), and others suggested that it would be prudent to present the MOU for public comment. Mr. Callahan stated that he would be willing to withdraw without prejudice UConn’s offer to serve as project manager. WPC Chairman Jack Betkoski stated the Council would not accept such withdrawal. The Council also fielded questions and remarks from legislators, town officials, advocates, and members of the public, who were at the meeting to learn more about the MOU and the process for moving forward.
Comments may address
1. The Draft Memorandum of Understanding with the University and any recommendations on the process or conditions of the proposed agreement; and
2. Any recommended alternative approaches to develop the plan, with identification of anticipated costs and funding source
All comments must be received by September 5, 2014. Other dates of interest are August 19, when there will be a water-planning meeting of the WPC and stakeholders at PURA in New Britain, and September 16, when the WPC will make a decision on the matters in the MOU. Possibly, the Water Planning Council Advisory Group will meet on September 9. These are open meetings. For more details on time and place, direct queries to Bruce Wittchen, Maureen Westbrook, or Margaret Miner at the email addresses shown above.
There may be other venues for public information, which we will share on our website.
The proposed diversion of 2 million gallons of water per day from the Farmington River watershed to the UConn campus in Storrs appears to have been finally nixed. UConn has selected the Connecticut Water Company, which currently manages the UConn water system, to supply the needed (or at least much wanted) water.
The Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), the very large Hartford-region utility, had fought hard to win this contract. MDC was prepared to build a 20-mile, $51-million pipeline from East Hartford to Storrs (a part of Mansfield). The source water would have come from MDC’s reservoirs in the east branch of the Farmington River. Two streams below these reservoirs are famously dry. Moreover, the diversion would have indirectly put the beautiful west branch of the river at increased risk of impairment.
The MDC diversion was prominently and energetically opposed by Farmington valley towns, fishing groups, river groups, local legislators, environmental groups, and by many of you! Congratulations!
But do not yet relax with your laurels. The MDC-UConn controversy illuminated basic problems with the way water is allocated and managed in the state. There is no firm structure for decision making, no involvement of environmental groups, no integrated management. Tough decisions are improvised in response to the needs of the moment. The result is wasted time, energy, money, and water. The problem is not just in the UConn region but across the state. Only last month, angry voters in Bethel rejected a complex, flawed plan to sell its water utility to Aquarion, a large private water company.
In 2013, you will be hearing a number of proposals from different sectors to reform and rationalize water planning. You may already be involved with some of these ideas. Excellent. Please come forward. Every voice will be needed.
Below is Rivers Alliance testimony, submitted Feb. 23, 2013.
The committee was vague about how much longer it would take testimony, so the sooner the better. You can email the document to the committee clerk: email@example.com.
In theory the plan could move quickly from a committee vote to the floor of the House. More likely, however, the process will be drawn out. So if you want to weigh in later, your voice could be important. Rivers Alliance addressed mostly the process and the need to take more time to get it right. However, many people on both sides of the issues want first to see corrections to the map and then changes in the text as per their particular interests.
FOR THE CONTINUING LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE ON STATE PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT
TESTIMONY OF RIVERS ALLIANCE OF CONNECTICUT ON
CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT POLICIES: THE PLAN FOR CONNECTICUT, 2013-2018
Date: February 23, 2013
To the Chairmen, Sen. Steve Cassano and Rep. Jason Rojas, and Members of the Committee:
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 the state plan. I hope that the comment period can be held open for a time, as the notice was not in the usual place in the Bulletin, and I was late communicating with members.
A New ApproachThis plan was created with a new approach to both the text and the map.
The TextCross-Acceptance Method: OPM was directed in PA 10-138 to revise the Plan through the “cross-acceptance method” used in New Jersey. This approach is designed to reform a top-down, centralized approach to planning. We support this approach. Implementation involves first a series of meetings and discussions with municipalities, regional planning organizations, and representatives of OPM to discuss a draft state plan. All parties are supposed to understand where their plans and goals differ from others’. OPM got through this stage but never attained the final and critical stage of negotiation, which concludes with formal statements of agreement or disagreement with the plan. Here is how it is describe on New Jersey’s website:“Cross-acceptance concludes with written Statements of Agreements and Disagreements supported by each negotiating entity and the State Planning Commission. The State Planning Commission will incorporate the negotiated agreements into the Draft Final State Plan. Cross-acceptance is, by definition, a negotiating process. The State Plan and the State Plan Policy Map are intended to represent the input of counties, municipalities and the public so that we can all work together to create a State Plan that makes sense for all of New Jersey.”Our sense is that many local groups feel they were only partly listened to and the state does not have the benefit of the clarity provided by the full cross-acceptance process. Moreover, the curtailed process does not meet the statutory requirements in PA 10-138:“Section 1. (Effective from passage) (a) As used in this section, (1) "cross-acceptance" means a process by which planning policies of different levels of government are compared and differences between such policies are reconciled with the purpose of attaining compatibility between local, regional and state plans … “Recommendation: For this and other reasons (see below), we ask the Committee to postpone action on the state plan until the cross-acceptance process is complete.
Less Text. Although statutes and most people refer to the “state plan of conservation and development,” the title of the plan is “conservation and development policies …” (emphasis added). This signals that the document will present policies or principles, with the details of implementation to be found or developed elsewhere. The text is still organized around the “six principles of smart growth,” but the document is much shorter than the previous plan (45 pages versus 113).
There are benefits to a shorter text. We support this change, especially given limited state resources for research and writing. But the transition raises questions:
- Does the elimination of material indicate a change in state policy (as courts might rule)?
- Some of the growth principles and policies are so broad as to permit multiple interpretations. Will there be ongoing service by OPM to help people determine what is consistent with the Plan and what is not?
- If people are supposed to turn to one or more other plans to help in interpretation and to know how to flesh out a policy, which plans are authoritative? If plans are not consistent, which plan trumps which?
OPM evidently intends to incorporate by reference various state-agency plans cited at the end of the text in each section. These plans are to be used for “more information and policy guidance” beyond what is found in the state master plan (page 6). But is a “guidance” document an authoritative statement of state policy on the same footing as the state Plan? If so, there should there be explicit statements in the state Plan and in the various agency plans cross-referring to each other when relevant.
Recommendation: Provide a more detailed explanation of when consistency with the Plan is required and how one can determine if a specific project is consistent or not. Clarify the status of the state agency plans vis a vis the Plan.
Generally, it appears that the deletion of detail is more costly to conservation than development. This tilt toward development appears more vividly in the map.
The most controversial aspect of the Plan has been the Locational Guide Map (LGM). It is not entirely clear whether the map is supposed to function as optional guidance or as a depiction of detail that is integral to the Plan itself. OPM has been clear that by law and practice the map should not be used as a definitive measure of whether a project is consistent with the Plan. Nevertheless, the Plan is often so used, similar to the way that a town’s zoning map is used to determine what can be put where.
Although the map may be mere optional guidance for many projects, it has been interpreted as required for showing the Priority Funding Areas (PA 05-205). The relationship between the map and criteria for funding makes the map extremely important to state and municipal officials, conservation and housing non-profits, developers, and many others.
The map is in this Plan based, for the first time, on census districts, and has a new set of categories by color (Priority Funding Areas, Conservation Areas, Village Priority Funding Areas, etc., through to Undesignated Lands). It also shows transportation infrastructure and sewer lines and plants. Unfortunately, despite a major effort, the map is still quite inaccurate and incomplete.
Some advocates have advised simply discarding the map, leaving the text alone as the Plan. We do not agree. If this map is not available, people will just use other maps. Moreover, the interactive version of the map has the promise of being a great planning tool.
Recommendation: Postpone adoption of this map until it is more complete and accurate. Provide an inducement to municipalities and regional organizations to submit data. Establish a streamlined process for making fact corrections to the map (location of roads, commercial districts, protected lands, etc.).
- Page 18, last sentence implies that decentralized water and wastewater systems will not require publicly funded expansion of infrastructure. This was not the case in the state’s first (and, I believe only) decentralized wastewater district, which is in Old Saybrook. Public funding was very much needed.
- Page 19, bullet 5, clarify that mitigation of wetlands loss through wetlands creation is extremely difficult (and expensive) to do successfully; it requires expert, ongoing supervision. CEQ has stopped tracking created wetlands in their annual report because the data is so difficult to gather. • Page 24, first bullet. “Utilize an integrated watershed management approach [for public drinking water]. Here and elsewhere, the plan should indicate whether a prescription would require significant changes in state law (as this would) or is within reach under existing laws and policies.
- Page 24, third bullet. Here, somewhat inexplicably, the plan has deleted the public health standard of two-acres per unit in a drinking-water watershed. But it has added a limit of 10 percent area coverage in such a watershed. The latter is a good limit and should be applied where feasible (commercial development often tracks river and aquifers and includes miles of pavement and roofs). We ask that both standards be included in the plan.
- Revisit the comments of the statewide environmental organizations submitted for the earlier draft and this version of the plan. These comments include much important information and advice. Many changes were made but many important points were set aside. In other words, this testimony from Rivers Alliance is incorporating by reference the comments of our colleagues.
SummaryIf the Plan and LGM (map) are adopted in their present condition, the state will not have the benefit of the clear, accurate, useful tool that is actually within reach. The creators of the Plan were given a mission-impossible considering the fragmentation of Connecticut’s governing entities; the requirement to create a new, complex map; the shortage of time and resources.Recommendation: This is not an emergency. Take the time to do the job right. Reconsider the relatively great expansion of growth areas versus conservation areas in the text and map. Connecticut is traditionally a place of industry, natural beauty, and healthy communities.
Below is Rivers Alliance testimony, submitted October 2012.
Dear Dan Morley:
Thank you for the opportunity to learn about and comment on the state conservation and development policies plan (the Plan). We, at Rivers Alliance, appreciate the major effort put into highlighting important principles and making presentations across the state. However, through no fault of OPM, the revision of the existing Plan has been encumbered with a number of new mandates: a bottom-up approach (cross-acceptance); new mapping methodology; new legislation that relates to the content of the plan, in particular the open space bill (PA 12-152); and a more emphatic state policy of reducing barriers to development and job creation. This is not a run-of-the-mill revision; it is new and difficult.
The sequence of planning tasks assigned to OPM and its sister agencies is in an illogical order, with an impossible timetable. PA 12-152 reflects a general agreement that the state has been operating without good data and valuations on state-owned lands, conserved lands, farmland, and semi-conserved lands. The law calls for an estimate of the extent of preserved, or conserved, land and for recommendations for arriving at a more accurate accounting. At the same time, DEEP is revising the Green Plan, which addresses the state's open-space goals and progress toward those goals.
Common sense suggests that OPM's Plan and map should be based in significant part upon the data and recommendations developed under PA-152 and the Green Plan. But all three (and probably other related plans) are being written almost simultaneously. This guarantees a hodge-podge result, with a consequent need for backing and filling to try to come up with consistent and comprehensive data, models, and policies.
So our first comment is to urge OPM to seek a revised timetable, and in the meantime to work with a provisional text and map (possibly a corrected version of the existing map).
Additional time would also allow the cross-acceptance process to proceed to a more satisfactory conclusion.
The New Jersey cross-acceptance model, used by Connecticut, has a much fuller, bottom-up process that requires longer and more detailed negotiation among state, regional, and local entities -- and the public -- to arrive at consistent goals, strategies, and policies. Where consistency is not attained, New Jersey requires written statements of agreement and non-agreement, which can be used to identify areas where more work is needed. By contrast the Connecticut process cuts off part way through, with the deadline for public comments less than a month from the final public presentation. There has not been time for a full back-and-forth on how to reconcile differences to the benefit of all.
OPM has received numerous complaints, corrections, and questions regarding the Locational Guide Map (LGM) that accompanies the Plan. It is my understanding that the revision of the map was undertaken to provide a more objective basis for designating areas for growth, conservation, and so forth. The idea is to use census blocks and show existing conditions. But OPM has been handicapped by lack of good information, and existing conditions are not accurately represented. This map may be fixable; OPM is doing its best; but this is a complicated task requiring the cooperation of several agencies. Most likely it would be simplest to start over with different rules. In the meantime, the existing map is more useful.
Again, I believe more time is needed to get a good result with the LGM. In addition, OPM should clarify how much weight officials and the public should give to the text versus the map. If there is an inconsistency, which is the governing document? Is the LGM the authoritative source for the Priority Funding Areas? Understandably, government entities and non-profits want to be sure that both the text and the map reflect state policies, so that they can know whether a given project can be described as consistent with the Plan and thus eligible for various funding opportunities.
The Map illustrates particularly clearly the state's shift from balanced support of conservation and development to stronger support for development. We agree with comments submitted by the Groton Open Space Association and the Housatonic Valley Association (HVA). Elaine LaBella at HVA wrote:
"The Locational Map, which is used to guide where state development, transportation and conservation money is spent, indicates that a considerable portion of the state falls within Priority Development Areas, while the current Plan and Locational Map shows that the majority of the state falls within Preservation or Conservation Areas. "
This is quite a change.
The new Plan is much more concise than previous plans. This is beneficial in many ways. However, in the transition, a legal analysis should be done to determine whether deletion of material will be interpreted in court cases as signaling a deliberate change in state policy. The Plan should identify any policy changes associated with compacting the text.
For example, the Plan no longer specifically recommends low-density development in drinking-water watersheds. The following (and much more) has been deleted.
"As a general density guideline for water supply watersheds, require minimum lot sizes of one dwelling unit per two acres of 'buildable' area (excludes wetlands). Consistent with the carrying capacity of the land, encourage cluster-style development to lessen impervious surfaces and avoid development in more sensitive areas."
In its place we have the very different guidance:
"Regulatory approaches that are environmentally sound, allow for least-cost compliance options, provide operational flexibility, and offer incentives for pollution prevention should be actively pursued wherever practical to reduce the time and cost associated with doing business in Connecticut."
Does this mean that OPM is backing off its past position, which complemented DPH's guidance of two-acre zoning or greater in source-water recharge areas? If not, could the DPH guidance be incorporated by reference?
The text and map together indicate that state is dramatically rolling back its previous commitment to protect natural waters, wildlife, and open space. Is this intentional? Some planners have discussed using the incorporation-by-reference in these areas, too. For example, if the Plan refers in principle to the importance of saving open space a (more to come).