Summary and Timeline of proposed management changes on the West Branch of the Farmington River
Summary and Timeline
- In 2019, the MDC stated its intention to remove it’s hydroelectric facility and terminate it’s contract with USACE on Colebrook Dam and passed a District Board resolution stating as such.
- Immediately following, Rivers Alliance and Save the Sound engaged DPH on the necessity of MDC filing for an abandonment permit and raised concerns about the future status of protected watershed lands surrounding Colebrook Dam. This concern was not unfounded, in initial meetings and presentations with stakeholders, Scott Jellison stated several times that they would love to get out from under the property taxes.
- There were several years of legal back and forth between MDC and US ACE and MDC and DPH as to the status of the agreement and the 10BG in question and inquiries from Rivers Alliance and Save the Sound to DPH on the status of the issue.
- In June 2022, MDC filed a petition for declaratory ruling with DPH regarding DPH’s authority over future, potential drinking water sources.
- In the summer of 2022, MDC reduces releases to only what is required by agreement and statute claiming that they do not have the authority to release water because they were no longer party to the Colebrook agreement.
- US ACE submits a letter in advance of a stakeholder meeting in August meeting stating that the MDC remains party to the agreement and US ACE cannot release water unless the MDC calls for it per the agreement and operational releases.
- In January, MDC withdrew it’s petition for declaratory ruling and agreed to file for an abandonment permit which was filed this spring. Rivers Alliance submitted pre-filed testimony through Save the Sound for the declaratory ruling proceedings.
- In June 2023, Save the Sound and Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy negotiate a Memorandum of Agreement with the MDC to grant NCLC a conservation easement to permanently conserve the watershed land around Colebrook and Save the Sound, NCLC, Rivers Alliance, the Farmington River Watershed Association, the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, and the Nature Conservancy file joint comments to DPH in support of granting the MDC and abandonment permit.
- MDC continues to maintain that it is not authorized to release water outside of requirements by agreement and statute through low flows during early summer of 2023.
- DPH is expected to provide a decision on the abandonment by July 20th.
Other resources on this issue:
Kinneytown Dam: Working for Better Passage for Migratory Fish
Over the past several decades, the Naugatuck River has made a remarkable comeback, with the return of fish, birds, and other wildlife, and an increase in human use. From 1999-2004 five dams were removed from the river. However, currently, there is an ineffective fish ladder at Kinneytown Dam that is preventing migratory fish from accessing miles of restored habitat upstream. Rivers Alliance of Connecticut is proud to be a part of the Naugatuck River Restoration Coalition, a coalition of concerned organizations formed to ensure that safe, timely, and effective fish passage returns to the Naugatuck River.
Providing safe, timely, and effective fish passage is a condition of the exemption from licensing the Kinneytown Dam was granted in 1983. While the fish ladder was built to meet this requirement, even when it was operating as designed, fish passage was modest, at best. Since 2013, the ladder has been rendered almost completely ineffective.
For more information on this hugely important issue, check out this interactive story-map.
Naugy Suffers Again
The Naugatuck River can’t seem to catch a break. As if it wasn’t bad enough to get vaguely associated with Legionnaires Disease in December, and after a five million gallon sewage spill October 9, on Saturday, January 20, 4000 to 6000 gallons of hydraulic fluid spilled from a Somers Thin Strip in Waterbury, contaminating the factory grounds, pavement, soil and storm-water catch basins. Much of it reached the River. The Waterbury Fire Department put oil booms in the river, but most of the oil had already flowed downstream. CT DEEP took over cleanup of the river.
Other Naugatuck River Problems
According to DEEP’s Bypass and CSO Events Public Viewer there were 6 other sewage spills into the Naugatuck River in 2017 in addition to the big one described above. 2 of them occurred since the famous Oct 9 spill. During the massive rain storms Oct 29-30, from 100,001 to 500,000 gallons of sewage got into the river from an overflowing manhole at Waterbury’s treatment plant, and from 501 to 1000 gallons overflowed from a manhole on High Street in Naugatuck.
Earlier in 2017 from 1,001 to 5,000 gallons of raw sewage reached the river from a spill on Derby Avenue in Seymour September 9. The Waterbury treatment plant had a spill estimated to be anywhere from 500,001 to 1,000,000 gallons on April 16. A spill on Church Street in Naugatuck on February 7 spilled an unknown amount of sewage in the river. The Naugatuck’s bad year began on Jan 20, 2017 when 650 gallons of raw sewage was bypassed into the Naugatuck River from the City of Naugatuck’s treatment plant.
However, if there were any sewage spills in Beacon Falls in 2017, they would not show up on the list above because that system does not report electronically to DEEP. The other sewage treatment plants on the Naugatuck, in the cities of Derby, Naugatuck, Seymour, Shelton, Torrington, Thomaston, and Waterbury all report electronically.