Protecting the Farmington River

January 31, 2013

Last Tuesday, the University of Connecticut held a public hearing at the UConn Health Center in Farmington to gather input from members of the public, environmental experts, local officials and legislators about a proposal that would send water from the Farmington River all the way to the UConn campus in eastern Connecticut. This project is being undertaken by UConn and the Town of Mansfield to extend a source of potable water to the area to improve current and future needs for water supply to the university and community.

For many of us who are familiar with this invaluable natural resource, the Farmington River deserves the designation of “Wild and Scenic.” Each year, people come from across our state to fish, kayak and tube down the river. While I recognize the needs of the university and Mansfield to continue their growth, it should not come at the expense of those towns located on each side of the Farmington River.

The report, known as an Environmental Impact Evaluation, reviews several different options to extend water supply services to these towns. It ultimately suggested three preferred options, including an interconnection with the Connecticut Water Company, the Metropolitan District Commission or the Windham Water Works.

Like many in our region, I was concerned with the findings of the report which suggested the Farmington River could become a source of water supply with minimal environmental impact. This proposal would also require the MDC to extend a pipeline for 20 miles from East Hartford to Mansfield.

While it references that the Nepaug and Barkhamsted reservoirs have the capacity of 52 billion gallons of water and that the transfer of 3 million gallons per day would be inconsequential, one only needs to visit the Farmington River on an average mid-July day to see how low the level of the water can become. At times, it is even walkable from one shore to the next.

In my testimony, I referenced several concerns that were expressed in the report. It appears that the MDC proposal would violate the State Plan of Conservation and Development with the passage of pipeline through locations defined as conservation areas. In Coventry, for example, the report states that “State policy is to avoid extension of water systems in these areas.”

In addition, the report highlights the fact that several hundred new homes could be developed in the towns of Bolton, Coventry and Tolland. These 900 potential new homes would mean greater need for water resources which are not addressed in this report and raise serious concerns about future development and water resource planning.

In the end, I urged the University to reject the MDC proposal and to study the impact on the towns along the Farmington River should that proposal end up as the preferred option for additional water supply. Public comment will be accepted until Thursday, January 31st. To learn more about the three proposals, please visit UConn’s Environmental Impact Evaluation website at