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Trustees Release Amendment to Final Restoration Plan for Natural Resources Injured by Hazardous Substances Releases in Housatonic River, Connecticut


08/20/2013


bicyclists using the new bike path in Sega Meadows Park, New Bedford, Connecticut A new, mile-long, public bicycle trail, shown here, and associated parking lot were constructed in Sega Meadows Park in New Milford, Connecticut, pursuant to the July 2009 Restoration Plan to restore natural resource services injured by hazardous substances releases in the Connecticut portion of the Housatonic River Basin. Photo credit: FWS.


On August 20, 2013, the federal and State natural resource trustees released the publicly-reviewed “Final Amendment to the Housatonic River Basin Final Natural Resources Restoration Plan, Environmental Assessment, and Environmental Impact Evaluation for Connecticut.” This Amendment selects seven, additional, preferred aquatic natural resource restoration projects to be undertaken in Connecticut.

The natural resource trustees involved in this case include:

  • State of Connecticut, represented by Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection;
  • U.S. Department of Commerce, represented by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and,
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Housatonic River flows south from the Berkshire Mountains through western Massachusetts and Connecticut, eventually emptying into Long Island Sound. From the late 1930s to the late 1970s, General Electric Company operated a facility in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, for the manufacture of electrical transformers. Hazardous substances from this facility -- including PCBs, dioxins, furans, volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds and metals -- were released to Housatonic River.

Sediments, floodplain soils, river banks and former river oxbows in the Housatonic River watershed, from Pittsfield to Long Island Sound, were contaminated by these hazardous substances. Natural resources and natural resource services were injured by these releases.

Natural resource damage claims against General Electric were settled in a Consent Decree entered by the U.S. District Court on October 27, 2000. In this settlement, General Electric agreed to clean-up the contamination and pay $15 million for natural resource restoration projects. Approximately half of this amount was directed to projects specifically in Connecticut. The trustees released a publicly-reviewed Restoration Plan in July 2009 selecting 27 preferred restoration projects in Connecticut, totaling $7 million, to restore these injured natural resources and natural resource services.

A portion of these settlement funds were reserved for future aquatic natural resource restoration projects to be determined by amending the 2009 Restoration Plan. With accrued interest, these reserved funds have grown to more than $2 million.

This publicly-reviewed Amendment to the Restoration Plan selects seven aquatic natural resource restoration projects to be funded with these reserved funds, including:

  • Power Line Marsh habitat restoration;
  • Restoration of River and stream continuity in northwest Connecticut through culvert replacement;
  • Long Beach west tidal marsh habitat restoration;
  • McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, Great Meadows Unit, conceptual marsh restoration;
  • Old Papermill Pond Dam fish passage;
  • Pin Shop Pond Dam removal; and,
  • Tingue Dam bypass channel.

These restoration projects are designed to improve estuarine wildlife habitat and increase habitat for migratory fish. The trustees will monitor and evaluate the implementation of these projects.

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