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Creating a Water Plan Essential for “Next Generation” of Connecticut Residents--An Open Letter to University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst

Dear Ms. Herbst: Congratulations on your accomplishments as the new President of the University of Connecticut. As a freshman legislator, I am indeed impressed by your ambitious agenda as outlined in the Next Generation legislation. The proposal would greatly expand educational opportunities, research, and innovation in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines at UConn over the next decade. It would leverage the strength and resources of this university to build Connecticut’s future workforce, create jobs, and bring new life to the state’s economy It is hard to argue with such an investment until one realizes that it comes at a huge cost to our environment, especially the state’s water supply. UConn’s vast anticipated expansion demands more sources of water, water that the university is seeking to take with little regard to the detrimental impact to the rest of the state. As you know, there are three proposals put forward to satisfy UConn’s water needs of 1.93 million gallons a day. They include the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) in East Hartford, the Connecticut Water Company's (CWC) Northern Operations Western System in Tolland, and the Windham Water Works system in southern Mansfield The MDC option would be devastating to the Farmington River. The Farmington River is a critical natural resource, its watershed providing 100% of the drinking water for over 600,000 people in living in Greater Hartford and the Farmington Valley. The Farmington River is safe haven to precious wildlife, an important resource for fisheries, canoeing, kayaking and tubing as well as an important process for municipal sewage treatment plants. The upper River is currently designated “Wild and Scenic” with the designation currently pending for the lower River. The Farmington River is already under stress and the MDC option would only exacerbate the situation. In fact, trout fishing was suspended last year as low water levels and high water temperatures threatened fish survival, even though weather conditions were not unusual enough to be classified as a drought. Climate changes have already taken a toll on the river and this is not a time to take away more water, making it more vulnerable to the additional climate change challenges that lie ahead. On behalf of the Farmington River and the residents of the Farmington Valley, I stand in strong opposition to this option. But what concerns me the most –and should concern you -- is that Connecticut does not have a state water plan. Connecticut manages water quantity through regulating water diversion and other various programs. Primarily, three state agencies — the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), Department of Public Health (DPH), and the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) — administer state water resource laws The law requires DEEP, DPH, and OPM to create a statewide long-range plan for managing water resources, but such a plan has not been created. Since 2010, two bills have been introduced to create a statewide water use plan or planning process, but neither passed More and more, the focus is on planning and regionalization. Towns in the Farmington Valley and the Capitol region work very hard to plan and act on a regional basis. We try and plan for everything – education, public safety, transportation. Why not our water supply? The MDC proposal seeks a massive transfer of resources from one part of the state to another without any thought-through and agreed-to plan. While sympathetic to the university's needs, I believe that it is in the best interest of Connecticut to develop a comprehensive statewide water plan before taking such short sighted, stop-gap measures. The water needs of UCONN, Storrs and Mansfield should be addressed in the context of a state plan to meet regional water needs. Such a plan would evaluate the state's water resources and provide a meaningful strategy for sustainable growth. There’s an expression –“Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency for me.” Well, in this case, UConn’s lack of planning does constitute an emergency for the entire state –a water emergency-- and we need the university’s help in handling this emergency. The University of Connecticut has great minds and resources at its disposal. UConn has been a leader in many exciting initiatives and innovations. How amazing would it be for the university to be part the state’s water solution, not its problem? Please join me in this call to action on behalf of one of our most precious resources, our water. Working with the Governor and the General Assembly, let’s create a statewide water plan for this generation -- and the next. John K. Hampton State Representative 16th District ~ Simsbury
molly mead May 24, 2013 at 01:47 PM
John, thank you for this letter. I agree 100%.
Beverly Miller June 01, 2013 at 09:14 AM
Well done, Mr. Hampton. Your attention to this critical issue is greatly appreciated.

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