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Tri-state Connecticut River Project Selected by EPA for Watershed Initiative

Release Date: 08/20/2007
Contact Information: Nancy Grantham @ 617-918-1101

(Boston, Mass. - Aug. 20, 2007) – New England’s longest river is due to receive new attention from a collaborative effort in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, under EPA’s Targeted Watershed initiative.

The “Tri-state Connecticut River Watershed Initiative,” spearheaded by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), has been selected by EPA to formally apply for a grant to share in $13 million of grant money available nationally for state, local and private agencies to work to restore better health to watersheds across the United States. Only 16 projects have been invited to apply for this round of grants.

“Under this program, EPA is helping people working in their own backyards to protect and restore one of New England’s most treasured rivers,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “EPA’s commitment to looking at the big picture – protecting watersheds – will help New Englanders address the complex challenges posed by development and ensuring a clean and safe environment.”

The Connecticut River runs 410 miles from the Canadian border through Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut to Long Island Sound. The project selected by EPA involves work in three states to address water quality problems in the river, particularly due to bacteria and organic chemicals from industry, agricultural runoff, combined sewer overflows and storm water. These impairments prevent the river from achieving state/federal water quality standards for recreation, wildlife habitat and safe consumption of fish. Additional water quality impairment occurs in both Vermont and New Hampshire stemming from erosion and sedimentation.

The Tri-state Connecticut River Watershed Initiative proposes to enact a diverse group of activities that collectively will serve as models to be applied across the reach of the river to improve environmental conditions along the Connecticut River. For example, the project is expected to include extensive bacteria monitoring in historically disadvantaged urban areas to alert recreational river users of health conditions. It will provide data for decision makers to develop and promote ordinances to address sewage overflows, storm water and other contamination sources.

“We are so pleased to be selected as a finalist for the EPA targeted watersheds grant program, said Chris Curtis, Principal Planner for PVPC. “We have been collaborating with our partners along the Connecticut River on this grant proposal for three years and we have been working to clean up the Connecticut River for over 30 years,” continued Curtis. “This project will advance our efforts in a crucial way as it addresses the most significant water quality problems of the Connecticut River Watershed: 1) major bacterial pollution from combined sewer overflows and urban storm water runoff; 2) extensive streambank erosion; 3) threats to public water supplies, and 4) nutrient loading from agricultural runoff. We are extremely grateful for the confidence EPA has placed in PVPC and our excellent team of collaborators.”

The initiative would also apply innovative chemical and bacterial source tracing/tracking to differentiate among the sources of bacteria and contaminants. The proposal includes repairing a section of shoreline damaged by erosion using novel vegetative streambank stabilization and restoration techniques.

"The Connecticut River Joint Commissions greatly appreciate EPA’s interest
in our proposal to benefit New England’s longest river, and we look forward
to the possibility of working with our downstream partners,” said Adair Mulligan, Conservation Director for the Connecticut River Joint Commissions. “This multi-faceted
project is a creative approach to bringing key recommendations of our
Connecticut River Management Plan to life by addressing key water quality

EPA New England is proud to have been the model for a national launch of the targeted watershed initiative. Several years ago, former EPA Administrator Christie Whitman was so impressed with the local Charles River watershed approach that EPA is now employing these practices with other watersheds around the country. EPA initiated the Targeted Watersheds Grant Program in 2002 to encourage successful community-based approaches to protect and restore the nation's watersheds. Watershed health is important to providing clean, safe water where Americans live, work and play. Since 2003, more than $40 million has been provided through Targeted Watersheds Grants.

EPA’s Targeted Watershed Initiative supports ongoing state and local efforts to help communities protect drinking water and groundwater resources.

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