What makes the Eightmile River so unique?
The Eightmile is an exceptional natural and cultural resource. The river’s watershed is a healthy, interconnected ecosystem that controls and protects the water supplies of East Haddam, Lyme, and Salem. Over 80% forested, the area is home to diverse and rare animal and plant life, and an abundance of recreational activities. It is a source of natural beauty and pride for the residents of the communities in which it lies.
Who sought the Eightmile River Study and why did they do so?
The desire to protect the Eightmile River watershed originated locally in 1995 when local officials and citizens began working on protection efforts. A variety of local, state and federal watershed protection programs were considered. A key part of the program selection process was the need to retain local control over decisions involving the watershed. A Wild & Scenic River study and designation was determined to be the best way to achieve the local vision of a protected watershed.
Who is conducting the Study?
The Eightmile Wild & Scenic Study Committee was formed in 2002. Members include the First Selectmen from the communities of East Haddam, Lyme, and Salem, representatives of local land trusts, and representatives from land use commissions in each town. Other members include a representative from the Connecticut River Estuary Regional Planning Agency, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, and The Nature Conservancy. The National Park Service provides staff support and overall coordination.
What conclusions has the Wild and Scenic Study reached?
The Study found that six special “resource values” are present in the Eightmile River Watershed. They are: Watershed Hydrology, Water Quality, Unique Species and Natural Communities, Geology, the Watershed Ecosystem, and the Cultural Landscape. Preserving and enhancing these values is the basis of the Eightmile River Management Plan and the Wild and Scenic Designation.
Isn’t the Eightmile River already protected?
Towns have accomplished much and have been proactive for protection, but the character of the watershed continues to be altered. Ongoing degradation of river corridor lands harm water quality, wildlife and fish habitats, and increase flood potential. Increases in stormwater runoff from roadways, rooftops, and parking lots impact water quality, river flow, and bank stability. The fragmentation of large habitats threatens species survival. Slowly but steadily, the area’s special rural character is being incrementally lost.
What is the Eightmile River Watershed Management Plan?
The plan is a non-regulatory document reflecting a partnership in which local, state and federal interests have come together to establish resource protection standards and identify key actions to promote the long-term preservation of the Eightmile River Watershed. The roles and responsibilities of local land use planning and regulatory commissions do not change as a result of the plan, nor are any federal mandates or new regulatory powers created. The costs to local partners of implementing the plan are generally negligible, and if designation does occur funds are typically provided to support local partners as they put the plan into practice.
Are local officials supporting the management plan?
YES. A systematic review process has involved six local land use commissions in the towns of East Haddam, Lyme, and Salem. Regulatory commissions in each of the three towns have endorsed the plan. The First Selectmen in each of the three towns have endorsed the plan, the Wild & Scenic Study Committee has endorsed the plan, and a coalition of local land trusts and other groups support the plan.
Must all of the recommendations in the Management Plan be implemented?
NO. The management plan is an advisory document with no regulatory power. The plan identifies protection strategies that the various town commissions have agreed are important to the watershed’s future. Priorities in implementing the plan will be determined by each town’s local regulatory commissions with the help of the Eightmile Wild & Scenic Coordinating Committee. If there is no designation, local communities may act independently on the plan recommendations.
What is a Wild & Scenic River designation?
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Program protects our nation’s best rivers. The Eightmile River Watershed is proposed for designation as a “Partnership Wild and Scenic River,” which means that it would be managed through a locally-based Eightmile Wild & Scenic Coordinating Committee, financial and advisory assistance from the National Park Service could be available to support the Committee’s work and the watershed would be protected from federally funded or permitted projects that could harm the river.
Would designation help bring funding to the Eightmile River communities?
History says YES. The established Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers each receive annual appropriations from Congress to assist in implementing their Management Plans. In Fiscal ’05 the amount was $151,000 per river. Wild and Scenic status has also proven an effective vehicle for leveraging additional funds through other sources and partners at local, state and federal levels.
As a private property landowner, will designation mean new regulations or permits?
NO. No new permits or regulations are associated with designation – local land use remains subject to existing local and state statutes. The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act requires other federal agencies to respect the protection of the identified outstanding river values as they deal with the river, and charges the National Park Service to review federal actions/decisions to ensure this consistency.
Will access to the River be restricted or hunting and fishing regulations affected?
No. Access rights along the river will not change and hunting and fishing laws are unaffected by the designation.
Will a Wild & Scenic designation affect the ability to complete the planned extension of Route 11?
No. We understand the current plan for the Rt. 11 extension, which would be in the watershed for approximately one half mile, has specific features incorporated within the design (such as implementing bridges to span streams and wetlands instead of culverts) that are consistent with protecting the watershed’s special resource values.
Will I have an opportunity to vote for Wild & Scenic designation?
YES! The final action in the Wild & Scenic Study process is to take a vote at a town meeting in each community to determine public support for designation. Separate town meeting votes will be taking place in East Haddam, Lyme and Salem in early 2006. A postcard will be sent to every household announcing the date, time and location.