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News and Articles


New Municipal Stormwater General Permit Public Hearing Dec 17, 2014

Five Star & Urban Waters Restoration Program 2015 Request for Proposals


Connecticut Stream Flow Classifications

News on State Water Planning


        ------graphic to right ------------->

The Water Planning Council Seeks Public Opinion on Water Planning

Friends of the Lake Annual Partnership Award

Governor Signs Fracking Waste Bill

State Water Planning:  Update

The Integrated Water Quality Report

Research That May Help Manage LIS Nutrient Loading

Return To The Rivers: Connecticut's Waterways Reflect The State's History

Handmade Rangeley Rowboat Arrives in New Preston

Margaret Miner Receives Lifetime Achievement Award From the Connecticut Greenways Council

Environmentalists Applaud Signing of Law to Help Protect State Conservation Lands

NOAA and Noah in New England     ------graphic to right ------------->

Climate Change: Will We Ever Wake Up?

CEQ Issues Report on Vulnerability of State-Owned Conservation Lands to Takeovers and Change of Use


Hydropower: Policy Position of Rivers Alliance

Rainfall Data Catches Up to Weather

Model Resolutions, Ordinances, and Regulations

Rivers Alliance Testifies (Feb. 2013) on State Plan of Conservation and Development


Rivers Alliance's Comments (Oct. 2012) on State Plan of Conservation and Development


News & Articles

STREAMLINES The newsletter of Rivers Alliance of CT





NOAA and Noah in New England



Dec 12, 2014


Photo courtesy Town of Groton, CT
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated a number of permit programs, administered by the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), to deal with stormwater pollution. One of these permits is the "Stormwater from Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems General Permit" (abbreviated MS4) that requires each municipality to take steps to clean up the stormwater entering its storm sewer systems before it enters water bodies.

A revision of this permit will be presented at a Public Hearing on December 17, 2014. See http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?A=2586&Q=556338&deepNav_GID=1654 . A link to the draft permit itself is at the bottom of that DEEP website page. Or you can go directly to the Draft Permit here .  

Written comments on the general permit will be accepted at the hearing and following the hearing until January 9, 2015. Each commenter at the hearing will be allowed 3-5 minutes, and public and elected officials will get to go first. DEEP describes the process thus:

"The hearing will consist of informational presentations by the parties, a discussion of possible revisions to the proposed general permit, and the collection of public comment on the record. Based on the significant number of comments received to date and comments anticipated from the public hearing, Department staff will work with petitioners and intervenors after the December 17 public hearing on mutually acceptable revisions to the proposed general permit to resolve as many issues as possible."

The old permit that has been in use for 15 years is at http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/Permits_and_Licenses/Water_Discharge_General_Permits/MS4_gp.pdf

A General Permit Fact Sheet DATING FROM July 7 is also at the DEEP website.

On August 6, 2014 DEEP held an Informational Meeting with this presentation: http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/water_regulating_and_discharges/stormwater/14-08-29_proposed_ms4_reissuance_8-14_stone_ppt.pdf

A presentation from the CT River Coastal Conservation District about the new rules is at: http://www.conservect.org/ctrivercoastal/PDFs/SW%20permits%20and%20TMDL.pdf

Comments from 40 towns, 6 COGs or RPAs and others are at http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/water_regulating_and_discharges/stormwater/141106_ms4_comments.pdf

Long Island Sound Study shared a link on their Facebook page from The Ridgefield Press: "Cost of clean water rules worries town" http://www.theridgefieldpress.com/38813/cost-of-clean-water-rules-worries-town/

The Hartford Courant wrote a supportive editorial on November 10. Courant editorial Hate That Dirty Water

Rivers Alliance is studying reasons for changing the current permit and the most practical way of achieving results. Certainly the first step should be to reduce the volume of stormwater by arranging for it to soak into the soil before reaching storm drains. CONNECTICUT FUND FOR THE ENVIRONMENT HAS INTERVENED AS A PARTY, AND ITS NOTICE OF DESIRED IMPROVEMENTS IS VERY STRONG. RIVERS ALLIANCE WILL USE IT AS A GUIDE.


December 3, 2014

Five Star & Urban Waters Restoration Program
2015 Request for Proposals

Full Proposal Due Date: Tuesday, February 3, 2015 by 11:59 PM Eastern Time The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced they are soliciting applications for the 2015 Five Star/Urban Waters Restoration Program. NFWF anticipates that approximately $2,100,000 in combined total funding will be available for this round of grants.  The Five Star & Urban Waters Restoration Grant Program seeks to develop community capacity to sustain local natural resources for future generations by providing modest financial assistance to diverse local partnerships for wetland, riparian, forest and coastal habitat restoration, urban wildlife conservation, stormwater management as well as outreach, education and stewardship. Projects should focus on water quality, watersheds and the habitats they support. NFWF may use a mix of public and private funding sources to support any grant made through this program.Check out the details here: http://www.nfwf.org/fivestar/Pages/2015RFP.aspx#.VH4bkmceqSp


October 2014

Connecticut Stream Flow Classifications

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

The link for the DEEP web page is:  http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2719&q=531520&deepNav_GID=1654

The text there reads in part:

(NEW) October 7, 2014
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.  


October 2014

News on State Water Planningg

Under this year’s Public Act 14-163, the state is embarked on comprehensive water planning. This summer, 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. See the article below The Water Planning Council Seeks Public Opinion on Water Planning for links to the original MOU. Many of you commented on the modified plan, which was posted in August 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, as a major water user and supplier, was too conflicted to be the manager. Comments can be seen here: http://www.dpuc.state.ct.us/dockcurr.nsf/(Web+Main+View/All+Dockets)?OpenView&StartKey=14-08-09

On Friday, October 17, the Water Planning Council handed out a Memorandum of Understanding (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. Language on the inclusion of stakeholders and their recommendations has been 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 Council without discussion voted unanimously to accept this MOU. The meeting room was quite full. The vote was received in silence. There were no questions. The consensus in later conversations was that lawyers got to the MOU. Whether the agreement can be a foundation for progress or a persistent distraction remains to be seen.


September 2014



Fracking policy has been a flash point in Connecticut politics, even though the state has about zero opportunities to frack, that is, extract from rock the much-sought fossil fuel, natural gas (mostly methane). By contrast, some nearby states, especially Pennsylvania and New York, are rich in productive or promising fracking sites.

Fracking (short for “hydrofracturing”) for natural gas is especially controversial among advocates for clean water. The process involves injecting large quantities of water (about five million gallons per well) into rock (in particular, carbon-rich Marcellus shale). The water is mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, including biocides, to facilitate the mining process, and then is injected below ground under pressure to break open cracks in the rock and release trapped gas.

Despite the large-scale loss of water, fracked natural gas was hailed by the petroleum industry, political leaders, and environmentalists as the holy grail of energy policy: cleaner, cheaper, more reliable power. Over the past dozen years, as fracking spread and intensified, doubts grew about the “cleaner” claim; but environmentalists still tended to favor natural gas as a useful bridge fuel on the way to more truly green, non-fossil sources, such as solar and wind power. Unfortunately, serious problems with fracking and the distribution of the gas continued to emerge.

This map shows anomalous U.S. methane emissions (that is, how much the emissions are higher or lower than average) for 2003-2009, as measured from space. Purple and dark blue areas are below average. Pale blue and green areas are close to normal or slightly elevated. Yellows and red indicate higher-than-normal anomalies, with more intense colors showing higher concentrations. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan [Click to open article]

Natural gas is methane. It burns cleaner that coal or oil, thus reducing the emission of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. But if methane doesn’t burn, if it leaks, it is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Connecticut passed a law last year to reduce leaks. But it is in the nature of gas to leak. Nationwide, experts are currently warning that the volume of leaks will always be large and the effects severe.

The water used in fracking becomes highly contaminated, due both to the materials mixed into water for fracking and the additional contaminants picked up underground. These underground contaminants include lethally concentrated salts, arsenic, and radioactive materials. Thus far, no practical methods have been developed to clean the waste adequately for disposal in surface water. Disposal in clusters of deep injection wells is associated with small earthquakes.

What to do with the waste has become an urgent question for the industry.

In New England, in 2012, Vermont stepped up and passed a ban on both fracking and the disposal of fracking waste; the ban is to be revisited in four years if fracking proves to be safe. In Connecticut, anti-fracking sentiment also surged, and a significant number of environmental advocates and allies in the legislature began to call for a similar ban. From the beginning, the governor’s office and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) made it clear that they would prefer no explicit attacks on fracking or even on the importation of fracking waste. They did not want to “send the wrong message.”

In 2013, efforts at anti-fracking legislation went nowhere. But in 2014, similar efforts led to high-energy policy fights that continued until the last hour of the legislative session. At the outset, a ban on fracking itself was dropped as an issue and the focus moved to whether Connecticut would accept fracking waste for treatment or disposal. The greenest legislators and most committed advocates declared for a ban. DEEP asked for regulation. Very early, it became clear that few if any legislators would hold out for a ban. Neither the administration nor business interests wanted a ban. Pressure steadily increased on all parties to back off a ban and negotiate for a moratorium on waste importation. Compromise draft succeeded compromise draft, and environmentalists, with various degrees of reluctance, acceded to the compromises, until the final draft, which appeared to rule out any prospect of a ban in the future and to explicitly direct DEEP to write regulations. Environmental groups withdrew their support. But when the bill was poised for passage and then did pass, the environmental community generally acknowledged that legislators had worked hard for a moratorium, that there are relatively substantial protections in the bill, but that a ban on fracking waste should still be the goal.

Public Act 14-200, AN ACT PROHIBITING THE STORAGE OR DISPOSAL OF FRACKING WASTE IN CONNECTICUT, sets a three-year moratorium on the importation of fracking waste. The regulations are described thus in a summary by the Office of Legislative Review.

“The act requires DEEP to submit regulations to the Regulations Review Committee for approval after June 30, 2017 and no later than July 1, 2018. Until the regulations are approved, activities involving any wastewater, wastewater solids, brine, sludge, drill cuttings, or any other substance generated as a part of or in the process of fracking as well as products derived from or containing any of these wastes are prohibited in Connecticut. The regulations must (1) subject these wastes from energy production to the state's hazardous waste management regulations; (2) ensure any radioactive components of fracking waste do not pollute the air, land, or waters or otherwise threaten human health or the environment; and (3) require disclosure of the composition of the waste. But the DEEP commissioner has discretion to not adopt regulations under certain conditions [full disclosure of the components of the waste or of other information requested by DEEP].

The act prohibits the sale, manufacture, and distribution of de-icing and dust suppression products derived from or containing fracking waste until DEEP adopts regulations controlling these products.”

Most readers can probably imagine many ways in which this regulatory approach may fall short. Environmental groups will have plenty to do tracking the development of the regulations and the movements of waste transports. Rivers Alliance has been looking at two questions in particular. Why wait years to subject fracking waste to the state’s hazardous waste regulations? That could be done now. Pro-mining federal lawmakers passed a federal rule that bars the categorization of any mining waste as hazardous; it can melt your Geiger counter but it’s not hazardous under federal law. States do not have to follow that rule. Connecticut adopted the rule but could drop it immediately, in fact, could have dropped it last year. There is also a question as to whether our hazardous waste facilities are capable of handling highly toxic fracking wastes and whether our regulators have the resources to enforce stricter rules (or even today’s rules).

Finally, there’s the question of why it’s a “wrong message” to ask fracking industries to meet high health and environmental standards. One reason it’s wrong is that high standards cost more, and then fracked gas wouldn’t be a cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable. It would be a more expensive and politically undesirable.

Fossil fuels, including natural gas, are unlikely ever to be clean, cheap, and reliable. They will continue to emit greenhouse gases, heat the planet, and foul water. No fuel source is perfect. But let us push hard on Connecticut policy leaders to make a dramatically stronger commitment to, and investment in, non-fossil fuels.

Margaret Miner, E.D., Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, September 23, 2014

November 21, 2014


At the November meeting of the Water Planning Council, the Department of Public Health announced its decision on the revision of the boundaries for the seven Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCCs). See entries below for background information on WUCCs.

This latest WUCC revision is another step away from the process mandated in Public Act 85-535. Back then, almost 30 years ago, DPH determined that seven WUCC areas would satisfy the Act’s requirement to delineate water supply management areas based on “similar identified water supply problems that lent themselves to area-wide analysis and solutions …” (DPH web site, Drinking Water Section, Water Utility Coordinating Committee).

Once the seven areas have been determined, the statute does not appear to establish authority to change these areas.

Nevertheless, DPH has decided now that the state only needs three, not seven, WUCC areas. Does this three-WUCC pattern still meet the criterion of similar water supply problems and that lend themselves to area-wide analysis? Evidently not, as the decision states that this criterion “appears to be less critical than other factors.”  Therefore, it has been set aside.

By statute, each area is supposed to have its own plan. These plans must cover environmental considerations as well as those of water supply. Suchplans are typically expensive, so writing three plans rather than seven may be more cost-effective; but each plan will be approximately double the complexity. Also, WUCC planning efforts made in recent decades will have to be reworked to accommodate the new regions. (These planning efforts have yielded one completed and approved plan, three partially complete plans, and three not yet started.) Here’s what is supposed to happen with the area, or regional, plans:

Sec. 25-33h. Coordinated water system plan. Regulations.
(a) Each water utility coordinating committee shall prepare a coordinated water system plan in the public water supply management area. Such plan shall be submitted to the Commissioner of Public Health for his approval not more than two years after the first meeting of the committee. The plan shall promote cooperation among public water systems and include, but not be limited to, provisions for (1) integration of public water systems, consistent with the protection and enhancement of public health and well-being; (2) integration of water company plans; (3) exclusive service areas; (4) joint management or ownership of services; (5) satellite management services; (6) interconnections between public water systems; (7) integration of land use and water system plans; (8) minimum design standards; (9) water conservation; (10) the impact on other uses of water resources; and (11) acquisition of land surrounding wells proposed to be located in stratified drifts.
(b) The plan shall be adopted in accordance with the provisions of this section. The committee shall prepare a draft of the plan and solicit comments thereon from the Commissioners of Public Health and Environmental Protection, the Department of Public Utility Control, the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management and any municipality, regional planning agency or other interested party within the management area. The municipalities and regional planning agencies shall comment on, but shall not be limited to commenting on, the consistency of the plan with local and regional land use plans and policies. The Department of Public Utility Control shall comment on, but shall not be limited to commenting on, the cost-effectiveness of the plan. The Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management shall comment on, but shall not be limited to commenting on, the consistency of the plan with state policies. The Commissioner of Environmental Protection shall comment on, but shall not be limited to commenting on, the availability of water for any proposed diversion. The Commissioner of Public Health shall comment on, but shall not be limited to commenting on, the availability of pure and adequate water supplies, potential conflicts over the use of such supplies, and consistency with the goals of sections 25-33c to 25-33j, inclusive.
(c) The Commissioner of Public Health shall adopt regulations in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54 establishing the contents of a plan and a procedure for approval or amendment to the plan. (Emphasis added as the status of these regulations is not presently clear.)


October 2014

Wonks on WUCCs: Water Planning in Connecticut

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 consumer; 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 s 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, give us a call or email. rivers@riversalliance.org or 860-361-9349.

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.

Second, there is no provision in the statute for revision of WUCC boundaries.

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.
Margaret Miner

For more the WUCC tussle, read below. 

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.

September 2014

The Water Planning Council Seeks Public Opinion on Water Planning

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: bruce.wittchen@ct.gov

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

August 2014

Friends of the Lake Annual Partnership Award

Friends of the Lake (FOTL) has given its annual Partnership Award jointly to Margaret Miner, Executive Director of Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, and attorney Roger Reynolds, Legal Director at Connecticut Fund for the Environment. The two advocates have been working together with the lake group to promote better sewage treatment, especially phosphorus removal, in a number of municipalities. FOTL, based in Bridgewater, is a non-profit organization protecting Lake Lillinonah, which receives wastewater from Danbury. The organization uses some of the most sophisticated monitoring technology in New England; and its staff, members, and volunteers includeexperts in ecology, law, boating, fishing, and the always needed debris removal. FOTL handed out a number of awards at its festive annual meeting on August 21, with speakers from the Steering Committee including the group's high-energy leader Jeffrey Silverman (who described Ms. Miner as "a fighting machine") and program manager Greg Bollard, who also apparently doesn't need sleep. Refreshments included local Maywood wines. It's a fun group. The URL for their website is http://www.friendsofthelake.org/

August 2014

Governor Signs Fracking Waste Bill

On August 18, 2014, the governor signed  Public Act 14-200,  An Act Prohibiting the Storage or Disposal of Fracking Waste in Connecticut.R21;  The celebratory event was at Farm River State Park in East Haven, in the district of one of the legislative leaders on this issue, Rep. James Albis. Present, in addition to Gov. Dannel Malloy and Rep. Albis, were DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee; Sen. Ed Meyer (the leader in the Senate); Sen. Joseph Crisco; and Representatives Lonnie Reed, Dante Bartolomeo, and Tony Hwang. Also present were a number of environmental advocates, including Rivers Alliance. 

The bill sets up a three-year moratorium on the import of fracking waste, during which DEEP is mandated to study the issue and write regulations. People differ on whether the bill is adequately protective, which probably hinges on the state's ability to write and enforce strict, science-based regulations. Some see the bill as a step toward a total ban. Some see it as a step toward regulation  --  regulation that may be problematic with respect to water quality and human health. Some think regulation can be made fully protective.  Here is a link.  Let us know what you think.    


The governor made a strong demand that industry disclose the components of any fracking waste it wants to import into Connecticut. 

He said, "Lacking full disclosure, this legislation needs to become a permanent ban."  This is an extremely important commitment. 

Here is a link to a video of the governor's remarks: http://ct-n.com/ctnplayer.asp?odID=10590

August 2014

State Water Planning:  Update

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. 

The letter from CEQ requesting a comment period is available by clicking here.  To read the letter from FRWA, click here


The WPC decided on a 30 day comment period from 8/05/14 until 9/05/14. Comments should be directed to Bruce.Wittchen@ct.gov.  To send a copy to Rivers Alliance, use rivers@riversalliance.org

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.

August 2014

The Integrated Water Quality Report

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has released its most important document on the status of CT rivers and other waters under the standards and rules of the Clean Water Act.  This is the Integrated Water Quality Report, delivered to the US Congress every two years.  The comment period runs to August 29, 2014.    

Questions and comments on the report should be directed to Walter Tokarz, at walter.tokarz@ct.gov or in writing to CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Water Protection and Land Reuse, Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse, Planning and Standards Division, 79 Elm Street, Hartford, CT, 06106-5127.

For more background, go to the DEEP page about the report, for brief version of the report, read a summary of the report, the report can be read in its entirety on the DEEP site.

Some of you may recall the report as having two separate parts:  the 303(d) list of impaired waters and the 305(b) list of all waters.  These parts were integrated several years ago.  (Unfortunately, an intermediate category, “Threatened,” was eliminated.) 

This report will tell you whether a river, stream, lake, cove, or estuary has been assessed under the Clean Water Act, whether it has been found to be impaired or not, and whether remediation efforts are being considered, under way, or completed.  For any kind of planning, action, advocacy, or application for funding, this is vitally important information.   The report is lengthy and complex.  The most efficient way to gather information about a water body of interest to you is to enter the name of the water body in the “Find” box, and keep hitting “Next” until the end.  You may be surprised by what you find, or disagree, or be pleased, or want to urge DEEP to make a correction or to do more.  That is why there is a comment period. DEEP puts major resources into this effort, and we should respond.
If you have questions about the report or the most effective way to comment, we at Rivers Alliance will try to help.  You may call (860-361-9349) or email (rivers@riversalliance.org)

August 2014

Research That May Help Manage LIS Nutrient Loading 

Microbes take biologically usable nitrate (NO3 -) and process it in one of two critically important pathways -- denitrification, which returns it to biologically inert nitrogen gas (N2,), or ammonification, which turns nitrate into ammonium (NH4+) and keeps the nitrogen biologically useable. This means that we can slow over-enrichment of Long Island Sound by nitrogen by encouraging denitrification and discouraging ammonification.

A study reported in the Aug 8, 2014 issue of Science reports that three specific initial factors were conclusively responsible for determining the denitrification or ammonification of the nitrate supply.

The ratio of nitrate (NO3-) or nitrite (NO2-), is the most basic because when nitrite is more abundant, the process that dominates is inevitably denitrification. 

However, regardless of the ratio of the fixed nitrogen supply, when conditions encouraged rapid regeneration (generation time of less than 1.7 days), then the denitrifying bacterial groups came to dominate (either rapidly or eventually), but slow growth conditions favored ammonifying bacteria.

Finally, the carbon to nitrogen ratio is an important factor because carbon limitation (limited food supply) will favor denitrification -- denitrifying organisms will have higher productivity.

An article describing this research is at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140807145742.htm, the scientific paper is available at http://www.sciencemag.org/content/345/6197/676  

July 2014

Handmade Rangeley Rowboat Arrives in New Preston

Rivers Alliance Delivers!NEW PRESTON—On Sunday, July 13, representatives and friends of Rivers Alliance of Connecticut gathered on the shore of Lake Waramaug to celebrate the arrival of a splendid handmade Rangeley rowboat, built as a gift for Rivers Alliance by Geoffrey Meissner of Southington. The craft, which had been on display in June at the Wooden Boat Show at Mystic Seaport, was bought by Ben Nickoll and Christine Armstrong of New Preston.

Mr. Meissner, who is director of information technology at Ensign-Bickford Industries in Hartford, is a well-known hiker, boater, and all-round outdoors man. He serves as a vice-president of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association and is a longtime, highly valued member of Rivers Alliance. Boat-making is a hobby at which he excels. The 16-foot craft, now docked in New Preston, is made of cedar, teak, ash, and mahogany.

Rivers Alliance board member Sarah Martin exclaimed at Mr. Meissner’s skill and generosity, saying, “Geoff not only donated a lovely rowboat to us. He donated the hours of planning, working with hand tools, fine-tuning, and finishing required to make this boat.” It was Ms. Martin who alerted Mr. Nickoll to the availability of the boat, and he, as a member of Rivers Alliance, was happy to support the protection of Connecticut’s waters by buying the craft. In a trial row with Mr. Nickoll pulling the oars, the boat skimmed along. He remarked, “Today is actually our wedding anniversary, and this rowboat is a perfect gift.”   

To close the little celebration, Margaret Miner, executive director of Rivers Alliance, said, “We are exceptionally lucky to have both the Meissners and the Nickolls as active, thoughtful members. And I look forward to getting out on the water in this boat sometime soon.“ 

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, founded in 1992 in Collinsville, is the only statewide nonprofit dedicated to protecting and enhancing all Connecticut's waters, above and below ground. Now based in Litchfield, Rivers Alliance works across the state to help local organizations and people involved in water stewardship and is a vigilant advocate in Hartford for good water policies.     

June 2014

Margaret Miner Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from Connecticut Greenways Council

At the fifteenth annual Connecticut Greenways Awards Ceremony, which took place on Friday, June 6th, at Goodwin College, Susan Whalen, deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and Bruce Donald, chairman of the Connecticut Greenways Council, presented 10 awards to groups and individuals for their dedication to the development of Connecticut’s greenways. The final award presented, the Lifetime Achievement Award, went to Margaret Miner, the executive director of Rivers Alliance. Ms. Miner and Rivers Alliance were recognized for work on river protection and promotion of blueways, specifically Rivers Alliance’s Connecticut Water Trails website.

The Rivers Alliance Water Trails Program site, www.ctwatertrails.org, is a one-stop hub for information on water trails and paddling opportunities in Connecticut. It connects the many groups that maintain and protect water trails to people interested in paddling the state’s many scenic waterways. The site promotes the use and appreciation of our waters with an interactive map presenting paddling locations across the state, as well as safety, events, and guidance information.

Also in a leading role at the ceremony was Laurie Giannotti, who coordinates the National Recreational Trails Program for CT DEEP, a source of funding for the CT Water Trails program and greenways in general. Attendees commented that the ceremony was full of positive energy demonstrating a bright future for Connecticut’s greenways..


June 2014

Environmentalists Applaud Signing of Law to Help Protect State Conservation Lands

Environmentalists Applaud Signing of Law to Help Protect State Conservation LandsHARTFORD, CT – Environmentalists today joined Governor Dannel Malloy, State Representatives Lonnie Reed, Elissa Wright, Gail Lavielle, Mathew Lesser and representatives from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to celebrate a new law that will enhance the State’s ability to preserve its conservation lands in perpetuity. Governor Malloy held a ceremonial bill signing for Public Act 14-169, An Act Concerning The Grant Of Property Interests In Property Held By The Departments Of Agriculture And Energy And Environmental Protection And The Establishment Of A Public Use And Benefit Land Registry, was approved unanimously by the General Assembly May 7th and became law June 11th.

The law (1) grants the Commissioners of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Department of Agriculture the explicit right to place conservation restrictions on land acquired to protect natural resources, open space or agricultural uses; and (2) requires DEEP to create an online public use and benefit land registry containing information about state-owned conservation properties. The online registry will launch by January 1, 2015 showing maps and land records for three state parks. Each quarter, DEEP is required to add 10 more state parks to the online registry. Other lands owned by state agencies, as well as properties in public drinking-water watersheds, may be added in the future. The goal is to make information about critical conservation resources and lands of high conservation value immediately available to the public as well as to state, municipal and other decision-makers.

Conservation advocates led by the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, Connecticut Forest & Park Association, Sierra Club’s Connecticut Chapter and Audubon Connecticut, the state office of the National Audubon Society, have been working for several years to promote measures to better protect state conservation lands for their intended conservation purposes.

Governor Dannel Malloy said, "We should be proud of the tremendous assets we have in terms of public lands and natural resources here in Connecticut, and by passing this legislation we are taking a critical step forward in our stewardship of the state parks, forests and other natural resource lands that are important to us all."

"This Public Act is the result of the hard work and cooperation of many parties, including the Malloy administration and open space, recreation, farmland and natural resource advocates," said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee. "This new law will help make certain that we highlight the importance and significance of State land that has been acquired for the public's use and benefit. These natural spaces protect our environment, offer excellent recreational opportunities for the public, and protect Connecticut's unique character."

Eric Hammerling, Executive Director of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, added “The State holds over 250,000 acres on behalf of the public, but most of these public lands like State Parks do not have any land restrictions that would guard against being given away at the whim of a future General Assembly. Iconic public lands like Hammonasset, Gillette Castle, People’s Forest, and many others deserve special protection, and we applaud this General Assembly and Governor for taking critical first steps today to better protect State lands.

Margaret Miner, Executive Director of Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, said, “State parks, forests, wildlife areas, and other state-owned natural spaces serve a vital function in protecting the health of rivers and wetlands. Preserving rivers, streams, and estuaries for the benefit of all requires saving the lands and natural vegetation bordering these waters. Public Act 14-69 will serve the public doubly, conserving both water and land.”

Martin Mador, Legislative and Political Chair for the state Sierra Club chapter, applauded the Governor's signing of PA 14-69 and the efforts of the legislature and DEEP staff to craft it. "This is an important step in the ongoing campaign to ensure that the open space held by the state continues its contribution to add to the quality of life in Connecticut.”

Sandy Breslin, Director of Governmental Affairs for Audubon Connecticut, the state office of the National Audubon Society, said: “Connecticut’s conservation lands guarantee state residents an enduring connection to nature while providing essential habitats for birds and other wildlife. These lands deserve the highest level of protection, and thanks to the leadership and support of Governor Malloy, the General Assembly and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection this new law gives us tools to ensure more durable protection of our most cherished places.”

Advocates also acknowledged the contribution of the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality whose report "Preserved But Maybe Not" highlighted the lack of permanent protections for state conservation lands, leaving them vulnerable to inappropriate sale or swap.


Margaret Miner, Rivers Alliance, Executive Director, rivers@riversalliance.org, 203/788-5161, website http://www.riversalliance.org/main.cfm, FB https://www.facebook.com/RiversAllianceOfConnecticut
Eric Hammerling, CT Forest & Park Association, Executive Director, ehammerling@ctwoodlands.org, cell 860/335-0812, website http://ctwoodlands.org/, FB https://www.facebook.com/CTForestandParkAssociation
Marty Mador, CT Sierra Club Legislative Chair, martin.mador@aya.yale.edu, 203/281-4326, website http://connecticut.sierraclub.org/, FB https://www.facebook.com/groups/207011239513/?fref=ts
Sandy Breslin, Audubon CT, Director of Government Affairs, sbreslin@audubon.org, cell 203/804-0488, website http://ct.audubon.org/ , FB https://www.facebook.com/AudubonCT?fref=ts

June 2014

NOAA and Noah in New England

The Northeast is getting more rain than it can handle, and we should expect more of the same and worse. The National Climate Assessment released in June 2014 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed that this region is experiencing increasing frequency of intense, heavy rain events. Between 1958 and 2010, there has been a 70 percent increase in the precipitation falling in strong storms. The Assessment predicts this trend will continue. Yet Connecticut is still using data from 1961 in designing septic leach fields, detention basins, stormwater pipes, dam spillways, and other critical infrastructure related to stormwater management. Engineers are allowed to use precipitation projections in TP 40 (Technical Paper 40) issued by the National Weather Service in 1961. Using old data holds down costs of construction and repair but raises the likelihood of sewage overflows and flooded streets and homes. It's time to start building for now and the next 50 years.

Link to National Climate Assesment  Link to National Climate Assesment  

April 2014

Climate Change: Will We Ever Wake Up?

On March 31, 2014, the distinguished United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report warning that climate change is affecting all parts of the world. All nations need to take immediate steps to prepare for adverse events, including floods, droughts, hunger, illness, infrastructure breakdowns, and political disruptions.

Climate Change 2014, Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. The SUMMARY FOR POLICYMAKERS

The report stressed threats to clean water as a leading global problem. The response of world powers has done little to avert this obvious and impending threat. Secretary of State State John Kerry said the report made clear that "the costs of inaction are catastrophic." Earlier in March, more than two dozen US senators, including Connecticut senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, staged a rare all-night Senate session to draw attention to the climate crisis. Maybe it’s time for an all-nighter across the nation to demand action. We are sleeping our way into misery for ourselves and our children.

The most likely and worse effects for North America are more wildfires, deaths from heat stroke, floods. How much worse they get depends on how soon we stop the increase of greenhouse gases from burning of fossil fuels. How bad the effects of these will be depends on how well prepared we are. The rest of the world can expect much worse than North America.

Here is a graphic from the report; explanations follow.

Click for full size graphic

WILDFIRE Bar graphs for Risk and potential for adaptation: Even IF we stop greenhouse gas emissions soon enough to keep global warming to 2°C, and aggressively work to adapt our human and natural systems to prevent and prepare for fires, the long term risk at best will be lowered to the risk we now have without any adaptations for increased fires.

So why bother? If we do not, the fires will be something this planet has not seen in human history.

HEAT MORTALITY Bar graphs for Risk and potential for adaptation: IF we stop greenhouse gas emissions soon enough to keep global warming to 2°C, and aggressively work to improve the way we prepare for and respond to heat waves, the long term risk can be kept as low as it could be now if we immediately  and aggressively prepare for them.

FLOODING Bar graphs for Risk and potential for adaptation: IF we stop greenhouse gas emissions soon enough to keep global warming to 2°C, and aggressively work to improve the way we prepare for and respond to coastal flooding, the long term risk at best will be lowered to the risk we now have without any adaptations for increased frequency, intensity and duration of flood events.

Why bother? Ask Noah.

The explanations above of just one of the charts in the report interprets their bar graphs to provide a "best case scenario" for each of the most likely worst three effects of climate change here.

January 2014

CEQ Issues Report on Vulnerability of State-Owned Conservation Lands to Takeovers and Change of Use

From time to time the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issues special reports on environmental issues of wide concern. The most recent CEQ report, issued in January 2014, is entitled Preserved But Maybe Not: The Impermanence of State Conservation Lands.

As many of you know, Rivers Alliance is a lead member of the State Lands Working Group, which aims to secure protections for state-owned conservation lands against takeovers for private development, police shooting ranges, golf courses, and the like. Other members of the group include the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, Connecticut Forest & Park Association, Connecticut Audubon, and Sierra Club Connecticut Chapter. This group interacts regularly with CEQ on a wide range of conservation issues.

Here is an excerpt from the report:

The General Assembly and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection have been asked to consider proposals during the past three years to transfer, exchange or re-purpose hundreds of acres of state parks, forests and wildlife management areas. Most of those proposals were not completed, but analysis of the cases reveals procedural deficiencies that routinely put state conservation lands in jeopardy of being 'unpreserved'.

To read the full report, follow this link: http://www.ct.gov/ceq/lib/ceq/Preserved_But_Maybe_Not.pdf

Here is a link to the news release accompanying the report: http://www.ct.gov/ceq/cwp/view.asp?a=986&Q=537658

If you would like more information about this cause or would like to help, contact us at rivers@riversalliance.org or 860-361-9349.


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December 2013

 Hydropower: Policy Position of Rivers Alliance

By Margaret Miner

We get many questions about our position on proposals to develop or import more hydropower. This is especially true in a year like 2013, when the governor, DEEP, and legislators were putting forward energy bills that included major roles for hydropower. 

Our basic position is that we support “good,” that is, low-impact hydropower. The typical characteristics of good hydropower are that it is run-of-river (water is not impounded and then released only when convenient); that it does not require a new dam; and that it provides passage for fish and eels. The ultimate goal is that a new or enhanced hydropower project should provide overall improvement in the health of the river.

These characteristics are to a considerable extent embodied in Connecticut’s definition of Class I hydropower. In Connecticut, all electric utilities are required to have in their energy portfolios a certain percent of Class I energy sources, such as solar and wind. The goal has been 20 percent by 2020. In other words, by 2020, 20 percent of a utility’s portfolio should be Class I energy.

Connecticut’s definition of Class I hydro includes the good characteristics mentioned above. In particular, this year, with the help of Paul Mounds in the governor’s office, Jessie Stratton at DEEP, and Andrew Fisk at the Connecticut River Watershed Council, we achieved a marked improvement in the definition of Class I with respect to fish passage. But unfortunately, in a holdover from the original definition a decade ago, Class I hydropower is supposed to be small and new. Small is under 5 megawatts (mw) and new is post-July 2003. This makes little ecological sense. All things being equal, it is better to have one well-designed hydro plant producing 20 mw, than four dams producing perhaps only 4 mw—or even less. 

The nature of a river is continuity—in biochemistry, physical flow, aquatic life, the birds, amphibians, and mammals that depend on the river for survival. Each natural change flows into another.

Rivers are the arteries of the world. Dams are high-risk tourniquets. Even a small dam can cut off that continuous life and degrade water quality (especially by warming the water and promoting harmful algae blooms and dead zones).

One of the surest ways to compensate for hydropower development by improving overall river health is to trade off removal of one or two existing dams for the hydropower on a third. This is feasible in many locations. There are 5,000 dams on Connecticut waterways. It is difficult to make an argument for building more. Nevertheless, a number of corporations, municipalities, and ordinary people who own riverside property, yearn for their very own new dams and hydropower facilities, and have proposals pending.  

The Rivers Alliance view is that all hydropower in our state should eventually meet Class I standards, and certainly any new hydro should do so. 

For this reason, we strongly opposed legislation this year that allows in some circumstances the sale of destructive Class II hydropower as if it were Class I in order to help utilities fill their Class I requirements. We have not opposed the incredibly massive hydropower facilities in Canada (although we think Canada will eventually regret them). We do not oppose increased importation of Class II hydropower from Canada. But we are extremely concerned about representing massively destructive hydropower as environmentally benign Class I energy.

Why do we care about lawmakers approving an apparently small stretching of the rules on behalf of Hydro Quebec? It is because we are certain that lawmakers and other officials will not be able to resist pleas and pressure to stretch those rules for Connecticut interests on Connecticut rivers. Why should only Canada be allowed to sell Class II hydro in the Class I market? Why shouldn’t Connecticut companies be allowed to do so? It’s hard to say why not. Therefore, we believe that to protect Connecticut rivers, we need to maintain high standards for what counts as Class I hydropower that can be used to fill the Class I portfolio requirements. 

The bottom line is: We support low-impact hydropower. We oppose any additional destructive hydropower on Connecticut rivers. 

Also, we’d be happy to answer questions and receive comments on the issue. 

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October 2013

Rainfall Data Catches Up to Weather

By Martha Smith, Analyst, Southwest Conservation District

OK, a rainfall pop quiz for you.

A 100-year-rain storm
a.) occurs once every 100 years, or
b.) has a 1% (1/100) statistical chance of occurring in any year.  

A 25-year-rain storm
a.) occurs once every 25 years, or
b.) has a 4% (1/25) statistical chance of occurring in any year.

If you chose “b” twice, congratulations. You understand commonly misunderstood terms — terms used with increasing frequency given recent storm events.

Our climate is constantly changing, and yet in the Northeast the “design storm,” or the expected amount of rain in a storm used to design infrastructure, has mainly been based on the venerable Weather Bureau publication Technical Paper 40, or TP40 for short. This standard 50-year-old reference was based on rain storms measured before 1960.

Design storm data is a critical component of many civil engineering design projects. For instance, if someone is designing and building a storm drain, they use design storm data to make sure the storm drain and associated piping will not overflow or back up for the anticipated amount of rain. 

A design storm is the likelihood of a specific amount of rain falling in a designated time period. Design storms range from rainfall durations of 5 minutes up to 10 days, and also range from high probability of occurrence (1-year storm) to lower probability (500-year storm).  

Most people are aware that rainfall patterns have changed in the Northeast, and scientific studies have validated this impression. In response, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) teamed up with the Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC) and Cornell University to update the rainfall data set. For explanation on statistics and the data used to calculate design storms, you can check the “Extreme Precipitation in New York and New England” website at http://precip.eas.cornell.edu/.

The new data set includes extreme precipitation through 2008, and, no big surprise: there are some changes for the Northeast. In Connecticut, the rainfall in normal smaller storms (1- to 10- year design storms) has not changed significantly. But the less frequent larger storms are much wetter. As an example, previously in Fairfield County, 7.2 inches rainfall was the 100-year, 24-hour design storm; now it’s 9.1 inches. Similarly, New Haven County’s 100-year, 24-hour storm increased from 7.1 inches to 8.3 inches rainfall.

On a practical level, what does this mean? It means engineering design standards will have to change if we are to reduce the risk of storm damage to bridges, roads, buildings, and other infrastructure. Hydrological expertise will be needed to determine exactly how engineering design standards need to change.

Unfortunately, the state and localities are moving slowly, if at all, to upgrade their design standards. Greenwich stands out as a municipality that has done so. The state Department of Transportation is doing a pilot study of infrastructure vulnerability in the Northwest Corner under conditions of climate change and extreme storms. But there is no coordinated, comprehensive effort to adopt uniform, realistic standards statewide. 

Meanwhile, storm impacts to existing infrastructure are likely to continue to be a greater problem than in the past. Connecticut now has larger areas of impervious surfaces than in 1960. This means more stormwater flowing into streams; and, where combined sewers exist, this water will flow into and sometimes flood wastewater treatment systems. In addition, replacement of aging infrastructure has been lagging. It’s a little like expecting an aged worker to perform physical labor harder than they ever did in their youthful physical peak. Thanks to the work of NRCS, NRCC and Cornell, engineers, as well as state and local officials, now have access to a rainfall data set that reflects current conditions. It is important to use this data as the basis for planning and permitting related to storm water.  

I close with one last question for today’s rainfall pop quiz.  

Rainfall data shows increasing intensity of storms in Connecticut, so we should
a.) build infrastructure designed for present rain storms
b.) assess existing critical infrastructure, such as bridges, for adequacy to withstand extreme storms
c.)  maintain our stream gauge network
d.) all of the above  

If you chose “d,” congratulations.  

August 2013

Model Resolutions, Ordinances, and Regulations

Rivers Alliance surveyed approximately 50 towns and environmental groups on regulations in place in their communities to manage nonpoint source pollution, as welll as regulations they would like to have in the future. Following analysis of the survey results, Rivers Alliance compiled these materials for municipalities and environmental organizations in Connecticut. This project was made possible by funding from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant under the Clean Water Act, Section 319, Nonpoint Source Grant.

The webpage that resulted from this work is at http://www.riversalliance.org/ModelOrdinances/modelordinances.cfm.

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February 2013

Rivers Alliance Testifies on State Plan of Conservation and Development

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: peter.murszewski@cga.ct.gov.

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.

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 Approach

This plan was created with a new approach to both the text and the map.

The Text

Cross-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 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.).

Miscellaneous Edits

  • 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.


If 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.

October 2012

Rivers Alliance's Comments on State Plan of Conservation and Development

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.

Planning Processes and Timetable

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.

The Map

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.

Concision vs. Detailing

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.

Drinking Water Watersheds

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?

Natural Waters, Wildlife, and Open Space Undervalued

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)

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Archived News and Articles

June 2014

Destruction NOT an Adverse Impact: A Weird Wetlands Case

The Woodbury Connecticut Inland-Wetlands Agency aims to challenge a ruling in Waterbury Superior Court that appears to say that if a land-use application involves the destruction of an area of wetlands; and, if as in this case, experts say that this destruction of wetlands will not adversely affect wetlands on the property, the commission may not deny the application on the grounds that the applicant has failed to offer an alternative that would reduce the adverse impact to wetlands, because, logically, there is no such possible alternative because, under the application as submitted, “the proposed activity would result in no significant adverse impact and would actually result in an improvement to the wetlands” (Judge Vincent Roche, Zappone v. The Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency of the Town of Woodbury, April 15, 2014). The judge acknowledged that 845 square feet of wetlands would be lost under the Zappone application, but also pointed to expert opinion that this would not adversely affect wetlands. The commissioners pointed to their legal responsibility to determine in an approval that no alternative exists that would render the project less harmful to wetlands. Chairman Mary Tyrrell was quoted in Voices Newspaper (May 7, 2014) as expressing fear that the ruling, if not challenged, would set a bad precedent for the state “because why would the Inland Wetlands Agency exist if the premise is that filling wetlands doesn’t hurt them and that does improve them?” The Woodbury Board of Selectmen approved a legal challenge on May 9, but asked the Agency to try to reach a settlement with the applicant.



December 2013

Untreated Sewage Spills into the Naugatuck River

On Christmas Day, 2013, at about 1 p.m.,  a manhole collapse in Seymour disrupted the  wastewater system, breaking a sewer line, and sending about 150,000 gallons of untreated sewage into the Naugatuck River over a period of  more than 24 hours. By Friday afternoon, the spill was contained, with only seepage remaining. 

The system collects wastewater on the east side of the river and pumps or siphons it under the water to the treatment plant on the west side. 

The Seymour wastewater utility is managed by Veolia Water North America and is overseen by the Seymour Water Pollution Control Authority. The system has suffered a number of smaller problems recently. 

The Naugatuck River is in the midst of a revival, with water quality improving, wildlife returning, and people out boating.   

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut Executive Director Margaret Miner said, “Raw sewage is obviously harmful to water quality and aquatic life. It contains pathogens (primarily bacteria and viruses) that are a threat to health, including human health. The organic material is nutrient-rich (if you are a plant). Excess nutrients cause algae blooms, oxygen depeletion, and dead zones. These days we are also worried about toxins (such as pesticides), pharmaceuticals, metals, and other substances in wastewater that appear cumulatively to be causing long-term problems, such as anomalies of the reproductive systems of fish, amphibians, and possibly humans. Such substances are not generally removed even by treatment. Luckily, the weather is cold and river flows are fairly good, which will mitigate the effects of the spill. But it’s a shame. We need to invest more in the functions and upkeep of the state’s treatment plants.”


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December 2013

State Starts Review of Water Quality Standards for the Clean Water Act

Here are Recommendations from Rivers Alliance. Comments by Others Available on Request

To: Robert Hust, CT DEEP
FROM: Rivers Alliance of Connecticut
RE: Triennial Review of State Water Quality Standards
Date: December 16, 2013

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

We welcome the chance to interact with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) on the subject of Water Quality Standards pursuant to the Clean Water Act.   In the last effort to review and adjust these standards (2009-2010), DEEP (or, at that time, DEP) used sound scientific criteria, including the most up-to-date standards, those developed for the Great Lakes regional compact.

Here is a brief description of the Great Lakes Initiative as described on the website of the US Environmental Agency (EPA). 

Great Lakes Initiative
In 1995, EPA and the Great Lakes states agreed to a comprehensive plan to restore the health of the Great Lakes. The Final Water Quality Guidance for the Great Lakes System, also known as the Great Lakes Initiative, includes criteria for states to use when setting water quality standards for 29 pollutants, including bioaccumulative chemicals of concern, and prohibits the use of mixing zones for these toxic chemicals.
Water Quality Guidance for the Great Lakes System To Prohibit Mixing Zones for Bioaccumulative Chemicals of Concern
EPA is amending the Final Water Quality Guidance for the Great Lakes System (40 CFR Part 132) to prohibit mixing zones for bioaccumulative chemicals of concern (BCCs) in the Great Lakes System, subject to a limited exception for existing discharges.
Identification of Approved and Disapproved Elements of the Great Lakes Guidance Submissions From the States of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and Final Rule
EPA is taking final action on the Guidance submissions of the States of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. EPA's final action consists of approving those elements of the States' submissions that are consistent with the Great Lakes Guidance, disapproving those elements that are not consistent with the Guidance, and specifying in a final rule the elements of the Guidance that apply in the portion of each State within the Great Lakes basin where a state either failed to adopt required elements or adopted elements that are inconsistent with the Guidance. EPA is separately taking final action on the Guidance submissions of the States of Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Here is DEEP’s summary of its sources for standards in its Technical Supporting Information for Proposed Revisions to the Connecticut Water Quality Standards: Ambient Water Quality Criteria
Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection
Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse
Planning & Standards Division
January 28 2010

Substances for which chronic aquatic water quality criteria are not available from published EPA sources, water quality benchmarks for aquatic life were obtained using the Tier 2 procedures established in the Water Quality Guidance for the Great Lakes System (USEPA 1995). Tier 2 criteria were either derived using the USEPA 1995 protocols or were obtained from other states that had used those protocols (EPA 2008). The criteria derived by CTDEP utilized aquatic toxicity information available from the USEPA EcoTox Database (EPA 2007) and or Toxicological Benchmarks for Screening Potential Contaminants of Concern for Effects on Aquatic Biota: 1996 Revision (Suter and Tsao 1996) and are presented in Appendix B to this document.

We believe that DEEP’s approach at that time was right for Connecticut, for the health of its residents, and for the survival of its wildlife.We see no environmental or economic advantage in being able to boast that our waters are more toxic than those of other states.  We urge you to use the highest standards accepted by the EPA and elsewhere in the nation. We are not second-class citizens.

As you know from our comments on your earlier draft, we believe that the standards (now regulations) have some profound ambiguities in their definitions that undermine the apparent intent. Here are my previous remarks. The points are still relevant.

The standards say:

Water Quality Criteria do not apply to certain conditions brought about by natural causes. Natural hydrologic and geologic conditions may cause excursions from established criteria. The meaning of the word ‘natural’ is not limited to only those conditions which would exist in water draining from pristine land. Conditions which exist in the surface water, in part due to normal uses of the land, may be considered natural, provided best management practices are used.  [emphasis added] It shall not be considered normal use of the land if excursions from established Criteria adversely impact an existing or designated use.

This is a key passage.  Notice, that the meaning of "natural"  (used with respect to flow or nutrient loading, or whatever) is significantly different from dictionary definitions of "natural."  Basically the definition in the standards includes non-natural, man-made conditions if best management practices (BMPs) are in place.  This would be objective (although fuzzy) and defensible if BMPs were defined as, say, "Highest-quality water-protection practices currently available."   Given a stream flowing past a paved mall, one could come up with some kind of estimate of water conditions with and without best available stormwater management techniques."  BUT  here is the definition of BMPs.   

Best Management Practices means those practices which reduce pollution and which have been determined by the Commissioner to be acceptable based on, but not limited to, technical, economic and institutional feasibility.

So, if the goal is to restore, say, a stream to its natural condition, this means to restore the stream to the condition the stream would enjoy if not-too-expensive, institutionally feasible (whatever that means) management practices were in place.  This makes a science definition dependent on political judgments.  

Comment:  Rewrite these passages to avoid making the definition of "natural" dependent on economic and institutional considerations.  Once an environmental goal is set, then the feasibility of attaining that goal can be considered separately. 

In connection with the reference to BMPs, we will repeat the comment that we submitted (unsuccessfully) on the revision of the state list of impaired waters.

COMMENT:  The natural flow of a river means the flow with BMPs in place.  Some rivers are interrupted by hydro dams.  A BMP for a hydro dam is run-of-the-river flow management.  Pond-and-release, or peaking, management is not a BMP for hydropower.  Therefore, river segments above and below a pond-and-release hydro dam should be listed as impaired.  The segment above will be unnaturally large and warm.  The segment below will suffer from off-on flows. 

I understand that DEEP is postponing setting criteria for phosphorus until a current review of science and policy is finished. I hope that the review will take up the matter as soon as possible.

On the issue of nitrogen pollution, environmental protection has been harmed by a confusion of drinking-water standards with environmental standards. We know that the standards for drinking water are not necessarily supportive of aquatic life. For example, some species need salt water. But we accept as a given that the drinking water standard for nitrogen is environmentally appropriate, even though the cumulative effect of nitrogen loading in bodies of water can obviously be destructive.

We urge DEEP to re-examine standards with respect to cumulative and synergistic effects. You have done so in some instances. For example, on page 20:

… insure that the cumulative effect of adjacent zones of influence will not significantly reduce the environmental value or preclude any existing or designated uses of the receiving surface water.

On page 43, an applicant seeking to lower water quality must provide:

...a description of the current level of water quality and the impact that the proposed action will have on water quality, including synergistic and cumulative effects;

However, to the best of my knowledge, cumulative and synergistic effects are still largely an overlooked, or lightly regulated, area of water-quality protection.

Rivers Alliance supports all of the recommendations submitted in this comment period by Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC); Farmington River Watershed Association; Housatonic Valley Association; The Nature Conservancy; and the Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition. I’ll highlight several issues of special concern.

Thermal pollution needs to be addressed now. To the best of my knowledge, there is a wealth of scientific data on temperature and aquatic life. As the climate warms, we will need to be extra vigilant to maintain cold-water streams.

Thank you for calling out wetlands as an important resource. Identification and protection of headwaters is especially important to protecting water all the way into the Sound.

Disinfection of sewage should be year-round. Various pathogens can survive cold weather, and people are in and on the water at all times of the year. Katharine Hepburn swam in all seasons. Connecticut greatly benefits from its celebrities. Let’s keep unsterilized sewage out of their way.

Chlorine should be phased out as a disinfectant as soon as possible. It is toxic.

We support CRWC’s strong call for a correlation between the tiered biological standards and the antidegradation principles. The condition of the biota in our waters is an indicator of the health of the environment for humans. It is to our benefit to maintain and enhance the quality of aquatic habitats. Fewer and fewer people believe that we can really thrive by degrading our environment (granted the remaining believers are a majority in some circles).

It is well past time to designate our eligible high-quality waters as Outstanding National Resource Waters. Such designation will serve as an extra layer of protection for waters that really no one should be interested in degrading.

We know that DEEP’s goal is to protect the state’s extraordinarily valuable water resources. We believe that future economic success and community health will depend significantly on whether we have the wisdom and will to do so. We appreciate your efforts, and will help in any way we can.

Margaret Miner
Executive Director

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October 2013

Governor’s Executive Order 37 Calls for Review of Regulations and a New Process

Rivers Alliance submitted the following comments with sign-ons

Dear Governor Malloy:

Thank you for ordering agencies to identify out-of-date regulations for the purpose of repealing or modifying them. This should be a regular practice with statutes and regulations.

We hope that the order to identify regulations that have become “unnecessarily burdensome” refers to regulations that are burdensome because they are no longer needed for any good purpose. I fear it will be interpreted to refer to any regulation an entity doesn’t like or doesn’t want to pay for. It is not clear whether the order to identify regulations that are “insufficient or ineffective” is for the purpose of getting rid of those regulations or improving them. For example, I would argue some of our pesticide regulations are insufficiently protective and some of our sewage treatment regulations are ineffective due to weak enforcement capability. Rivers Alliance would want to see these regulations upgraded not canceled. Generally, the most acute problems with our regulatory system arise from a lack of resources and support. In these circumstances, agencies do waver, wobble, and postpone labor-intensive reviews.

In the sections on a new process and implementation, we are very concerned that the order as written contains so many ambiguous terms that their exact meaning could be debated at great length, thereby slowing, not speeding, the regulatory process. For example, needs are to be addressed in a manner “proportionate to their significance.” The significance of a need is highly subjective; for many residents invasive bamboo is very significantly evil; for others, any regulation that costs money is equally evil.

Agencies will be required to do their best to be sure that “the benefits of regulations justify their costs.” By and large, cost-benefit analyses are flawed and nearly impossible to verify. However, at least it should be clear that “costs” refers to everyone’s costs, not just immediate costs to the regulated entities. For example, it is costly to comply with the regulations for disposing of household septic sludge. But the costs to individuals and communities for clean-up of illicit discharges, medical treatment, pathogen disinfection, depressed property values, etc., typically far outweigh the cost of safe disposal. It would be fairer to talk about a cost-cost analysis. But, fundamentally, it is a mistake to presume that fresh air, clean water, forests, and sunshine need to be justified in economic terms. These are the resources that support life and the quality of life that is our state’s greatest asset.

The order and the process described is supposed to develop with considerable public involvement. That is a good goal. But, given how few people are aware of this order, there is a likelihood that the involvement with be mostly by the usual small circle of insiders.

In the section on process, steps 6 and 7 seem redundant and contain so many undefined terms as to likely lead to prolonged arguments and revisions, when what the state needs is crisp, efficient action.

In the section on implementation, section 13 is indeed unlucky. It sets out some extra hoops for regulations “of significant impact.” That seems fair. But then the definition is imbalanced and accusatory. For example, it shall mean any regulation that may have an adverse impact on small business. That’s pretty broad. Once again, we believe it is a mistake to assume that the impact of a regulation will be a burden. Think of the many businesses and communities that are struggling with groundwater contamination. Who benefits from that? In those places, the lack of regulation and enforcement is a burden on both businesses and residents.

Again, we support regulatory rationality and efficiency. We believe the review will be helpful. But the order sends an unfortunate mixed message.

With best wishes for the holidays and not too much snow.

Margaret Miner, Exec. Dir., Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, and co-signers:
Eileen Fielding, Exec. Dir., Farmington River Watershed Association
Elaine McKinney, Oxford
Rep. Mary Mushinisky, Wallingford
Kevin Zak, Pres., Naugatuck River Revival Group
Mark Picton, Picton Brothers LLC, Washington Depot
Martha Phillips, Litchfield CT.

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April 2013

 UConn Rejects MDC Proposal;  Selects CT Water Co.;  Future Water Needs Unclear

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.

Archived comments on the proposal can be found here.

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May 2013

Combined Sewer Overflows

CT passed a groundbreaking piece of policy during the 2012 legislative session that would henceforth require the state Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection to report Combined Sewer Overflows in the state.

Phase 1 is up on the web at http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2719&q=525758&deepNav_GID=1654. (If this link crashes your browser, try switching to "Compatibility View.")

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, between 1.8 and 3.5 million Americans become ill from contact with water contaminated by sewage every year. Raw or partially treated sewage can contain pathogens, viruses, and bacteria and can lead to short-term gastrointestinal problems and infections, and long-term chronic conditions such as liver and kidney failure. Contaminants from sewage also contribute to red- and brown-tide algal blooms, which can result in unhealthy fish populations and can cost local economies millions of dollars annually.

Phase 1 of Sewage Right to Know highlights areas in the state that are anticipated to experience overflow problems during heavy precipitation events.

The next step (to be implemented on or before July 2014) is to detail unanticipated overflow events as they happen, to give the public real-time protection from exposure to raw sewage. Connecticut is the first state to develop a program like this, and so far, it’s shaping up rather nicely! Thanks to all the advocates who helped to make this possible!

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