Watershed Plan Underway for Still River

Thursday, March 5, 2015

LITCHFIELD COUNTY TIMES

Published: Wednesday, March 04, 2015

CORNWALL - In partnership with area watershed communities, the Housatonic Valley Association is launching an effort to develop a Still River Watershed Management Plan.

The Watershed Plan, which will identify strategies to reduce pollution, make the Still River safer, and improve river-oriented recreation opportunities, is also being developed with the help of state, federal and regional agencies and area nonprofits. 

Brookfield and New Milford are some of the local communities involved with this project, in addition to Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield, Newtown, Redding and Ridgefield.

The progress of the river’s recovery has reached a plateau, and the Still River remains unsafe for recreation, according to the 2014 State of Connecticut Integrated Water Quality Report to Congress. Polluted runoff from roads, roofs and parking lots is the main reason, regularly causing concentrations of pollutants to spike above levels safe for human contact, according to the HVA.

This watershed protection project is funded by grants from the Fairfield County Community Foundation and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The grants of $103,868 from the Connecticut DEEP’s Nonpoint Source Program, which administers these grant funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and $20,000 from the FCCF, allow HVA to work with Still River communities using a watershed approach to raise awareness among local officials, important stakeholders and the public of nonpoint source pollution impacts and flood damage risk.

The first step in this project happened last November when, with support from FCCF, HVA organized a Still River Watershed Summit. More than 40 people attended, representing Still River watershed towns, as well as federal, state and regional agencies and nonprofit organizations.

Attendees heard expert presenters discuss the history of the watershed, river-oriented recreation, water quality impairments in the river and tributaries, flooding and floodplain management, green infrastructure success stories, and watershed planning including next steps for a watershed-based planning process along the Still River. Visit www.hvatoday.org for a list of attendees and the PowerPoint presentations from the summit.

HVA Water Protection Director Michael Jastremski noted that watershed-scale management issues cannot be addressed effectively by individual communities as the causes generally go beyond town boundaries.

“HVA is proud to be a part of this great partnership working towards a healthier Still River,” Jastremski said. “Together we can address challenges that individual towns and organizations have a tough time dealing with by themselves, like water pollution and flooding. We will always be more effective when it comes to river management if we work together.”

Storms and associated flooding are expected to become more frequent and intense in Connecticut with climate change, he said. Flooding and water pollution problems are often closely related, complicated and expensive to fix. Watershed-wide collaboration and planning can identify the best opportunities to restore natural hydrology for water quality improvement and flood damage prevention, Jastremski said.

“The Still River valley is a vitally important urban watershed in Fairfield County,” HVA Executive Director Lynn Werner said. “The river is coming back but still faces some big challenges. Fortunately the towns are stepping up to find solutions together.”

Founded in 1941, HVA protects and restores the land and waters of the Housatonic watershed from its source in the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, area to Long Island Sound. HVA monitors water quality throughout the watershed, conducts educational programs, works to link preserved space with the Housatonic River Greenway of hiking and biking trails and uses computer mapping to help towns measure the impact and benefits of land use and development. It also sponsors the Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative in protecting more land across northwest Connecticut. HVA’s offices are in Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut; South Lee, Massachusetts and Wassaic, New York.

 

 

 

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