THE REGISTER CITIZEN
WINSTED — A town meeting on May 16 will ask residents to approve selling 25 parcels of property around Crystal Lake, the town’s primary source of drinking water, to the DEEP.
Crystal Lake is surrounded by acres of land that protect the watershed; Winsted’s water treatment plant also is located on that property.
If the purchase is approved, the DEEP will establish conservation easements for each of the 25 parcels around Crystal Lake — about 1,300 acres in total — with the exception of the 46 acres that surround the water treatment plant, said Town Manager Josh Kelly.
The money would be used by the water and sewer commission, Kelly said, to further protect Crystal Lake.
“After the sale of the easements, the land would still be owned by the town, and passive recreation, hiking and walking would be allowed,” he said.
According to Kelly, the DEEP will pay Winsted $442,500, and the remaining $307,500 will come from the Housatonic Valley Association, which has environmental efforts that include protecting bodies of water and rivers around the northwest corner of the state.
Buying conservation easements around bodies of water is part of the DEEP’s Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant program, which enables land trusts, towns and water companies to protect forests, farmland and other open space for conservation, according to ctconservation.org.
The goal of the program is to permanently protect 21 percent of the state’s land area, or 673,210 acres by 2023. Towns like Winsted become “conservation partners,” according to the DEEP.
The Board of Selectmen in December voted to send Kelly’s proposal to the town’s land use boards — primarily, the Planning & Zoning Commission — for an 8-24 referral, which is required for any municipal improvement projects— earlier this year. The commission approved the referral in February.
According to the statute, listed at cga.ct.gov, numerous types of land acquisitions and abandonments must go to a local zoning agency for a report before they can move forward.
In December, Kelly recommended that the selectmen accept the offer.
“We are in need of protecting that watershed from pollutants, and currently there are no formal protections in place,” he said.
“We don’t have plans to develop the land in the 25 parcels on which DEEP would like to buy conservation easements, and accepting this proposal would simultaneously formalize our conservation of this land, and give the town $750,000 that it wouldn’t otherwise obtain,” Kelly said.