Quinnipiac River Watershed Association
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Comments For The Governer's Blue-Ribbon Task Force


On behalf of the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association, dedicated to the protection and restoration of the waterways of the Quinnipiac Watershed, I would like to speak out in favor of the highest possible level of government support of open space acquisition, including a strong Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Fund Program, prompt release of bonds, and measures to help ensure that water company-owned open space remains in the public domain. From the stand- point of watershed protection, "an ounce of prevention, through open space protection, is worth a pound of cure." Open space protection not only improves the quality of life for Connecticut citizens, in terms of scenery and recreational opportunities, making communities more attractive to industry. It can reduce the need for tax-payer expenditures on high-tech pollution control devices and urban retrofitting, and for public works projects to control flooding and dredge sediment deposits. Open space, whether on ridge-tops or in river valleys, lessens downstream flooding, replenishes our aquifers, helps maintain base-flow in streams, and protects water quality.

During the past few rainy weekends, QRWA members have been collecting water samples for testing of turbidity at several dozen sites along Quinnipiac waterways. Tributaries emerging from forested open space were clear - like the upper Ten Mile River, with hundreds of acres of open space in its headwaters, much water-company-owned (SCRWA), some protected with the help of Natural Heritage Trust funds, and much still privately owned. These clear waters diluted the turbid water spewing from storm drains, draining from construction sites and urban centers, and from banks scoured and undercut by waters rushing off pavement surfaces. Dilution resulted in sharp drops in turbidy readings along the main stem Quinnipiac. Watching the river at flood stage, wide and seething, I reflected on the homes and businesses in downstream communities which are protected by open space. Forested upland slopes gradually meter out heavy rains, and water spreads out into natural, unchannelized floodplain corridors; rain soaks into the ground instead of causing downstream river levels to rise to dangerous levels. Open space protection also reduces deposition of sediment in streams; sedimentation not only damages aquatic habitat, but also reduces stream channel capacity, increasing flooding, and limiting recreational uses like canoeing and fishing.

Forest and wetland soils and natural vegetation effectively filter sediment and other pollutants. A comparable level of pollutant removal can be achieved by recently developed, high-tech measures such as filter cartridges of compost media, needing regular replacement; the QRWA recommends using such technology to restore water quality in the already developed portions of our watersheds. For protection of water quality, as well as flood prevention, wildlife habitat and quality of life, we also need a stepped-up program for secure protection of existing open space in our watersheds. We advocate a focused program at the state level with increased funding, and coordination with municipalities, land trusts, and water companies.

Sigrun N. Gadwa
QRWA Executive Director

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