Officials announce push to help bring funding, visitors to lower Farmington River [Register Citizen]

July 3, 2013

Officials announced a plan to help bring funding and visitors to lower Farmington River at a press conference on Tuesday, July 2nd (Credit: Laurie Gaboardi, Register Citizen).

Article as it appeared in the Register Citizen on July 3, 2013

By Kate Hartman

Simsbury – State and local legislators gathered in Tariffville along the rushing Farmington River to announce that they will be introducing a bill in Congress to designate the lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook as a “wild and scenic river.”

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty, State Sen. Kevin Witkos, State Rep. John Hampton, East Granby First Selectman James Hayden, Canton First Selectman Richard Barlow, Bloomfield Mayor Sydney Schulman, and John Rossi, Chief of Staff to Congressman John Larson, were all in attendance.

The wild and scenic river designation is a marketing tool the region can use to bring in visitors and funding. The designation will have practical implications as well. Stretches of rivers named wild and scenic are eligible for up to $100,000 in funding from the federal government and technical assistance with bank and soil erosion among other things, explained Murphy.

According to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System website, the designation was created by Congress in 1968, “to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.”

There are three designations of rivers; wild, scenic and recreational.

According to the website, wild rivers are defined as, “Those rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments and generally inaccessible except by trail, with watersheds or shorelines essentially primitive and waters unpolluted. These represent vestiges of primitive America.”

Scenic rivers are defined as, “Those rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads.”

This bill is a major stride in a process that began back in 2007 with a study that took an in-depth look at this portion of the river, and outlined its economic potential and environmental importance.

“The real round of applause should go to the amazing study committee, which has done great work over the last several years to give Senator Blumenthal, myself and Representative Esty the tools with which to make this case…We are indebted to the work that you did to present Us with an unassailable case as to both the ecological and economic power of this section of the Farmington River,” said Murphy.

Blumenthal thanked the activists who continually advocate for the river and said that, “environmental battles are not won in Washington, they are won on the river, in the community.”

Projects like this one, to get a river designated as wild and scenic, are a long and arduous process because there needs to be, “tremendous proof that the community is behind it,” said Eileen Fielding, executive director of the Farmington River Watershed Association. The government does not want to impose more regulations or designations on a community that doesn’t want it, so the evidence of a grass roots initiative needs to be present. That’s why this particular designation has taken over five years, explained Fielding.

Naturally, all representatives and locals in attendance were excited to meet the benchmark of introducing the bill to Congress. Murphy told the public that they hope to get the bill on the floor as soon as possible.

“We’re delighted,” said Fielding. “Getting the bill passed would be great. It’s been a long road.”

The upper section of the Farmington River is already designated as wild and scenic, and it was the same group of representatives who made that possible. Since they have done it once before, Murphy, Blumenthal and Esty said they are confident that they can do it again for the lower section of the river.

“We are proud to get equity for the lower Farmington River with the upper Farmington River,” said Esty.

The legislators emphasized the bipartisanship of this project from the beginning. Their plan is to ensure that unified support through Congress.

“We celebrate the partnership involved both to get us to this day, an extraordinary partnership of government and non-governmental organizations,” said DEEP Commissioner Esty, the Congresswoman’s husband.

At the press conference all of the legislators detailed the benefits of the river and explained why the lower portion deserves the designation.

The Farmington River is one of the cleanest rivers in New England. It is home to 12 species of fresh water mussels, is bountiful in trout and includes 100 pre-historic archeological sites, said Murphy.

“The river is an economic generator for the region and we’re currently sitting in a section of the river that has the potential to give a rebirth to this neighborhood of Tariffville,” said Murphy. “There’s a lot of races that happen on this stretch of the river but with some additional federal recognition and resources a whole small community could be reborn.”

The representatives said they hope to be back at the same spot, at the gazebo behind The Mill in Tariffville, to announce passage of the bill in just a short amount of time.

“There are very few stretches of river anywhere in the country where you’re going to find at one time the natural beauty, the economic runoff to the community and the natural and man made history within miles of the river’s reach,” said Murphy. “This river screams out to be designated as a wild and scenic river.”

For more information on wild and scenic rivers visit