NEWS ** 2 pages ** May 5, 2005
For Immediate Release
Attention: Assignment/Environment/Outdoor Editor
Contact: Kirt Mayland, Eastern Water Project Director,
860-435-2073 (w); 646-302-3639 (c)
HARTFORD -- The national coldwater conservation organization Trout Unlimited (TU) applauded yesterday's action by the Connecticut state Senate to pass SB 1294.
The bill, which mandates that the Department of Environmental Protection revise its 1979 streamflow regulations by December 26, 2006, next heads to the state House of Representatives, where members are expected to vote on it next week.
The 1979 streamflow regulations were at the heart of the decision in the Connecticut Supreme Court case, Waterbury v. Washington, regarding the paltry flows on the Shepaug River. In that case, the court ruled that even though the Shepaug was impaired by low flows, because it complied with the 1979 regulations, the impairment was not "unreasonable."
In testimony during the Shepaug Case, the DEP admitted that the 1979 standards had no ecological basis. In various federal reports, the DEP has since listed more than 60 rivers in the state that suffer impairment because of low or altered streamflow. These low flows are caused by a variety of factors, including water withdrawals and problems with dams. SB 1294 mandates the adoption of new standards based on updated, modern science, and is designed to protect natural aquatic life based on the best available science. Importantly, the new standards will be applicable to all streams and rivers in the state.
The bill was passed with the broad support of Connecticut's environmental community and other interested parties.
"This bill, if passed by the House, should do for all the rivers in the state what took millions of dollars and a decade of litigation for the Shepaug," said Kirt Mayland, TU's Eastern Water Project Director. "This bill will promote the long-term health of our state's rivers and streams, and should bring the best science to bear on difficult water management issues," Mayland said. "It should result in the return of a significant amount of water to Connecticut rivers and streams."
The bill is the product of months of work by a wide variety of stakeholders, with significant leadership provided by Senator Stillman, Senator Andrew Roraback and Deputy Commissioner Jane Stahl of the DEP.
Al Chase, Chair of TU's volunteer Connecticut Council, expressed hope that the bill would pass the House with no amendments. "The bill represents a major update in the way Connecticut evaluates water withdrawals and streamflow. Requiring the best science be used in these issues is long overdue, and we hope that the House will recognize that, just as the Senate did."
Trout Unlimited is North America's leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, with 140,000 members dedicated to the protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The Eastern Water Project is a new program focused on creating state policies that promote sustainable water management and healthy instream flows.