Houstonic River bill supported at hearing

Saturday, February 20, 2016

BY RUTH EPSTEIN REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

The Housatonic River in the Northwest Corner is on track to be designated "Wild and Scenic" following a request by the Housatonic River Commission.

Rep. Roberta B. Willis, D-Salisbury, and Sen. Clark J. Chapin, R-New Milford, introduced a bill on behalf of constituents. On Friday it was received favorably at a hearing.

A group of paddlers enjoy the pleasant weather on a summer day in 2013 with a canoe trip down the Housatonic River near the Cornwall Covered Bridge in Cornwall. The legislature may designate the stretch of river from the Massachusetts border to New Milford as Wild and Scenic.


The designation covers the section of the upper Housatonic from the Massachusetts border to New Milford and is supported by all seven river communities: Canaan, Cornwall, Falls Village, Kent, New Milford, Salisbury and Sharon.

Members of the legislature's environment committee heard testimony in support of the bill.

"The question of Wild and Scenic designation has been under discussion and debate for decades," Willis said. "I am pleased that so much progress has been made and that this could mean more protection for the river and the designation could provide more control over the river for the people who live in the region."

Willis said the designation will enable the local Housatonic River Commission to more effectively manage and protect the resource.

She noted the Housatonic "is a very special river and it must be protected for the generations who will follow us."

Individuals testifying in support of the designation proposal included Lynn Werner, executive director of the Housatonic Valley Association; Jessie Klingebiel, Kent's representative to the Housatonic River Commission; Eileen Fielding, executive director of the Farmington River Watershed Association; and Margaret Miner, executive director of Rivers Alliance of CT.

Willis thanked those who testified and praised them "for all the great work and effort you have put into this effort for so many years."

Under provisions of the proposed bill, the Northwest Hills Council of Governments will act as the administering agency for the Housatonic River Commission on its behalf. COG will constitute a political subdivision of the state for purposes of executing its duties and responsibilities.

The governor will submit an application to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to complete the designation process.

 

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