Senate Approves Permanent Protection for Eightmile River
Protecting a Connecticut TreasureApril 10th, 2008
Garrett Russo, American Rivers, (202) 243-7073
Eli Weissman, American Rivers, Government Affairs, (202) 347-7550
Washington, D.C. — One of the ecological jewels of Connecticut is now one step closer to being protected forever. As part of the larger package of natural resources bills (S.2739), the Senate has voted 91-4 to permanently protect the Eightmile River as a federal Wild and Scenic River. The omnibus bill is expected to be passed the House, before moving on to President Bush’s desk.
“It’s been a grueling marathon for millions of folks from Connecticut, but today the finish line is finally in sight,” said Rebecca Wodder, President of American Rivers ™. “River lovers all across the country can look to the story of the Eightmile as a perfect example of hard work paying off in the end.”
The watershed, studied by the National Park Service and determined eligible for national Wild and Scenic status, is the largest unfragmented forest region in coastal Connecticut, and its scenic beauty, historic character, and abundant fisheries serve as a tremendous source of pride for the residents of the local communities. The Eightmile will become the second river in Connecticut protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Farmington River is other.
Protecting the Eightmile River as Wild and Scenic was the first piece of legislation ever introduced by freshman Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT). It passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support in July and Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) introduced companion legislation in the Senate along with Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT).
Due to Congressional Rules, the Senate bill needs to be passed by the House, which is anticipated to happen soon. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk.
“Right now, Congress is considering protecting over 200 rivers under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and it’s time for them to act on all of them,” added Wodder. “There’s no better gift that a Member can give their constituents, than one that can be enjoyed forever. And it’s a gift, that won’t be forgotten by voters, especially in an election year that coincides with the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the passage of the Wild and Scenic Ricers Act.”
One of those bills, is the Snake Headwaters Legacy Act (S. 1281), sponsored by the late-Senator Craig Thomas. If passed, the legislation would constitute the largest expansion of the Wild and Scenic Rivers system since the law’s passage in 1968. In 2006, American Rivers kicked off our “40 x 40” campaign to seek the designation of 40 new Wild and Scenic Rivers
“What better way for Congress to honor the 40th anniversary of this incredible law, than to extend its protections to 40 more rivers?” adds Wodder. “Lawmakers have plenty to choose from and the Eightmile is just one of them. More than 3,400 rivers meet the Wild and Scenic criteria, and yet remain unprotected. Even the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon isn’t protected.”
About Wild & Scenic Rivers
The National Wild and Scenic Rivers system includes the nation’s most outstanding rivers totaling 165 rivers in 38 states.
To be eligible for wild and scenic river designation, a river must be free-flowing and have at least one outstanding resource value recreation, scenery, wildlife and fish habitat, history, geology, or other similar values. Rivers may be added to the system by an act of Congress. Or, if a river is protected through a state program, it may be designated by the Secretary of the Interior upon official request by the governor.
To protect and enhance the resource values for which a river was designated, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act affords a river legal protection from adverse development impacts.
- Forbids the construction of new federally licensed dams;
- Limits inappropriate streamside development;
- Protects the river’s unique values; and
- Mandates the creation of a management plan for the wild and scenic river.
Oregon leads the nation with 49 rivers designated, while Alaska boasts a stunning 3,210 miles of Wild and Scenic rivers. The Missouri River explored by Lewis and Clark, the Delaware River that cradled the American Revolution, and the Tuolumne River loved by John Muir are all protected by this visionary law.