Housatonic River Walk in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, shown here, is one of six public use restoration projects already undertaken by the trustees as part of Round 1 and Round 2 projects for restoring injured natural resources and services in the Housatonic River in western Massachusetts. Photo credit: Housatonic River Natural Resource Trustees.
On August 2, 2012, the Massachusetts SubCouncil of the federal and State natural resource trustees opened a 47-day public comment period on the “General Electric/Housatonic River Natural Resource Restoration, Massachusetts Housatonic River Watershed Restoration Program, Draft Round 3 Restoration Plan and Supplemental Environmental Assessment for Land Protection and Habitat Conservation.” This Draft Round 3 Restoration Plan details a proposed approach for the third installment of restoration projects – in this case, land protection and habitat conservation projects -- designed to restore natural resources injured by hazardous substances releases in the Housatonic River in Massachusetts.
The natural resource trustees for the Housatonic River case include:
The Massachusetts SubCouncil of trustees includes the State of Massachusetts and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
From the late 1930s to the late 1970s, General Electric Company operated a facility in Pittsfield, Berkshire County, in western 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 Silver Lake in Pittsfield and Housatonic River.
Housatonic River flows from the Berkshire Mountains north of Pittsfield, south through Connecticut and then empties into Long Island Sound. Sediments, floodplain soils, river banks and former river oxbows from Pittsfield to Long Island Sound have been contaminated by these hazardous substances. As a consequence of this widespread contamination, natural resources and natural resource services were injured.
Natural resource damage claims against General Electric were settled in a Consent Decree in October, 2000. General Electric agreed to pay $15 million for natural resource restoration projects. Approximately half of this amount has been directed to projects specifically in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts SubCouncil has taken a three-phased approach to implementing natural resource restoration projects. Round 1, in 2007, awarded $4 million for 10 restoration projects ranging from river flow restoration to an environmental literacy program. Round 2, in 2011, awarded $1.3 million to 5 projects including: habitat continuity restoration, wildlife resources protection, riparian buffer and floodplain forest restoration, invasive species control and educational programming. This Draft Round 3 Restoration Plan focuses on achieving natural resource restoration through aquatic and wildlife habitat protection gained through land acquisitions and/or acquisition of conservation easements.
Written comments on the Draft Round 3 Restoration Plan must be received by the trustees’ representative not later than Monday, September 17, 2012.