The following letter to the editor is a letter sent to the University of Conn. by the Tariffville Village Association in response to the proposed MDC water diversion:
Dear Mr. Coite:
The Board of Directors of the Tariffville Village Association strongly opposes the MDC proposal to divert water from the Farmington River watershed to supply the growing needs of Storrs and Mansfield. Our Association has invested a decade in enhancing the quality of life and the level of economic activity in our village based upon our recreational assets, especially the Farmington River.
The river enters our village as a gently flowing stream attracting the general public for canoeing and kayaking and leaves our village as roaring whitewater rapids in Tariffville Gorge which attract world class competitive paddlers and those training to improve their skills. It also supports fishing, hiking and picnicking.
Each year we host the Whitewater Triple Crown New England Championships which brings top paddlers from all over the US and Canada to compete for cash prizes and on another date the New England Slalom Series Tville Slalom competition for regional paddlers from all over the Northeast US. In addition, a division of the US Olympic Committee coaches a week long training camp for serious Junior paddlers striving for national recognition, plus a regional Scouting Camp runs a summer beginning paddling program. Throughout the year, paddlers from New England and New York practice their skills in the Gorge. All this brings significant tourism dollars and provides exciting entertainment for spectators.
Diminishing the flow of the river through our village, while perhaps minimal at first would inevitably grow as the University of Connecticut and its surrounding area expands and attracts more commercial and residential development. Especially in the low flow levels of mid-summer, this would be devastating to us and the wildlife that depend upon the river. It would jeopardize our local economy and quality of life.
A description of the impact of this proposed diversion was submitted in a letter by Scott W. Jellison, the MDC's deputy CEO and chief operating officer. Mr. Jellison states "We have no intention of 'draining' the Farmington River watershed basin in order to supply water to UConn." The letter noted "All water supplied with our proposal will be from existing sources, namely the MDC's two existing reservoirs, Barkhamsted and Nepaug."
We feel this simplistic explanation lacks credibility. We’re all talking about the same finite resource here – water. Impacting any portion of the existing system necessarily affects someone else. The Barkhamsted reservoir is simply an impoundment of the East Branch of the Farmington River, and the Nepaug reservoir is an impoundment of the tributary, the Nepaug River. Both of these reservoirs release water now that ultimately reaches Tariffville Gorge.
Although it is the immediate plan of the MDC to use only these two sources, there is no information on how much water would ultimately be purchased by the towns along the proposed pipeline or for future growth in Storrs and Mansfield. This increased demand has an enormous potential to increase the amount of water that the MDC diverts.
Every gallon of water diverted to Storrs or towns along the pipeline is a gallon that would have otherwise passed through Tariffville Gorge.
The water needs of UCONN , Storrs and Mansfield should be addressed in the context of a state plan to meet regional water needs, not as a quick fix for Storrs. The water needs of Storrs should be addressed in that region, and there are alternatives to the MDC proposal which were previously deemed acceptable.
We feel these alternatives would have far less of an impact on the Farmington River watershed, and therefore make more sense as a long-term solution to water needs of UConn, Mansfield and Storrs.
Wanda H. Colman,
President, Tariffville Village Association