Take Action to Create a Healthy Connecticut River Watershed
August 21, 2023
The Connecticut River carries the lifeblood of New England. Stretching from the Quebec-New Hampshire Border to Long Island Sound, the river supplies drinking water to over 4.8 million people and provides essential habitat for threatened and endangered species.
For hundreds of years, however, the Connecticut River has been dammed, polluted, and neglected. This week, however, Senator Jean Shaheen (D-NH), and Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced a transformative bill that that could redirect the river’s course to a cleaner, healthier future: the Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act (CRWPA).
A History of Industry and Pollution
For as long as humans have lived in the New England region, the Connecticut River has been an engine of industry and transportation. Indigenous Abenaki, Pequot, and Pocomtuc people used the river as vital transportation corridor and a key location for fishing and growing crops in the river’s fertile bottomlands.
When European settlers displaced local indigenous people and stole their land, they rapidly began using the river as source of power for New England’s burgeoning industrial economy. This power led to the growth of large cities like Springfield, MA and Hartford, CT, but resulted in the construction of over 3,000 dams and severe water pollution. By the 1960’s, degradation of the river was so severe that it was no longer safe to swim in the river and fish counts had declined to a tiny fraction of their former levels.
Cleaning Up the Connecticut River
In 1997, Congress created the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, an ecosystem-wide network of refuges designed to restore habitat and clean water along the Connecticut River. Since then, Friends of the Conte, a dedicated group of 70 environmental groups including Mass Audubon, has worked to expand this refuge and promote a healthier watershed.
Friends of the Conte has been championing the CRWPA for over a decade, so we’re thrilled that Senator Shaheen and Representative McGovern have finally introduced it to congress.
About the Connecticut River Watershed Protection Act
Modeled after other successful regional collaborations like the Chesapeake WILD Act and the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act, the CRWPA would create permanent federal funding for conservation, ecological restoration, education, and recreation in Connecticut River Watershed. If passed, this would be one of the largest river conservation efforts in decades. Additionally, this bill would create a better system for coordinating federal, state, local, and private funding to finance the conservation projects that will be most impactful across the watershed.
This effort aims to create a watershed that is swimmable, fishable, and livable for the numerous threatened and endangered species in New England that rely on rare riparian habitats.
We’ll need the support of every New England legislator to get this bill passed. Reach out to your Senators and Representative today and tell them to support the Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act!