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Officials Oppose Water Diversion Option as MDC Plans Meetings in Farmington

MDC silences Farmington River Watershed Association but residents will have opportunity to comment on plan.

Farmington Valley residents will soon have the opportunity to hear more about a Metropolitan District Commission proposal that Town Council Chairman Jeff Hogan called “silly and costly” and “a bad proposal” that “will have a dramatic effect on the Farmington River.”

MDC’s proposal - which would divert between 1 and 2 million gallons of water a day to supply the town of Mansfield and the University of Connecticut at Storrs - almost went forward without any opportunity for input from Farmington Valley residents.

The MDC held one public hearing in Mansfield and closed the comment period responding to an Environmental Impact Evaluation, done by Milone & McBroom, in December before Farmington officials were even aware of the proposal. The MDC never notified Farmington officials, but Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman, who has strongly objected to the plan, alerted them.

Now, the comment period has been extended a second time – the first time it was extended until Jan. 4 – and a public hearing has been planned for Jan. 22 at the UConn Health Center.

On Friday, a public relations firm contacted Farmington Town Hall asking for space to hold a public information session in advance of the hearing. That will be held Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Town Council Chambers at 1 Monteith Drive, Farmington.

Farmington officials have not responded favorably to the proposal, which is one of three options being considered to solve UConn’s water shortage.

Town Manager Kathy Eagen wrote a letter to be entered into the comment on the EIE, stating the town has “serious concerns” with the plan and calling for more analysis of the plan’s impact.

Hogan also wrote a letter, reiterating Eagen’s concerns and criticizing the MDC for silencing the Farmington River Watershed Association, which had also voiced opposition to the proposal.

According to a statement by the FRWA to members, “attorneys for the MDC have drawn FRWA’s attention to an agreement that was signed in 1998 to settle” a previous controversy over an MDC plan to divert water from the Farmington River. The agreement reportedly prohibited the association’s advocacy on the current water diversion plan.

“Given the MDC’s position, FRWA has decided to refrain from advocacy in this matter at this point,” the FRWA statement said. “Accordingly, FRWA withdraws any comments it made before MDC’s attorneys demanded that it cease and desist. The more than 400 signatures placed on its petition in the few days that it was open will not be delivered."

The Environmental Impact Evaluation states that the MDC option – one of three preferable options identified – is not consistent with state policy because it brings water across watershed areas.

“Certain adverse impacts associated with provision of water to the University and Mansfield are unavoidable. Delivery of water to the University and Mansfield from CWC, MDC, or WWW will constitute an interbasin transfer of water and resulting loss of water from local donor basins; this cannot be avoided… By virtue of the shorter potential pipelines, the CWC and WWW alternatives present a lesser degree of risk than the MDC alternative.

But the MDC maintains that the plan would not impact the Farmington Valley or the Farmington River, since water would be diverted from the Nepaug and Barkhamsted reservoirs and not from the river itself. The MDC also says that the 1 to 2 million gallons per day that would be diverted fall within a safe range, leaving plenty for the area’s water supply.

Hogan said that ignores the potential for any further development in the Farmington Valley and each of the area town’s individual plans of conservation.

“I do not consider the MDC to be a credible source of information on the effect on the Farmington River since their revenue is driven directly from the sale of water,” Hogan said. “In the past five to 10 years, there’s been a huge drawdown. We go to dangerously low flow levels in the summer… that river is too much of a resource – environmentally, economically and otherwise.”

The Farmington Valley Collaborative, including officials from the towns of Farmington, Simsbury, Avon, Granby, East Granby, Burlington and Canton will meet Thursday to formulate a position. They will be joined by Barkmasted and Norfolk for the meeting.

The towns have no leverage to stop the MDC proposal, Hogan said at the Jan. 8 council meeting.

“Our leverage is to come together commonly and make our concerns known.”

Both the informational session Thursday and the public hearing Jan. 22 are open to the public. Information about the MDC proposal is available here.

Wanda Colman January 17, 2013 at 07:02 PM
It's not too late for the public to become more involved. This is our water, folks! Let's give our full support to the Farmington Valley Collaborative AND continue the outcry from the people of the valley. Let's show our support by showing up at these meetings even if we don't intend to speak.

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