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Wild & Scenic Study Report

The Eightmile River Wild & Scenic Study Draft Report and Environmental Assessment summarizes the findings of the 3-year study of the watershed completed by the National Park Service and the local Study Committee.

Study Report Overview
The Study of the Eightmile River finds that the entire mainstem and East Branch congressionally authorized study area, plus additional tributary areas of the watershed, are eligible for designation into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System based on free-flowing condition and the presence of one or more outstandingly remarkable resource values.

The Study concludes that 25.3 miles of the Eightmile and selected tributaries are suitable for designation.

Use the links below to learn >explore the Study Report:

Summary of Findings (PDF)

Use the Request Copies form to order a hard copy of the Plan.


Download the formatted Draft Study Report: (PDF)

NOTE: Text sections of plan can be printed double sided.

Smaller Sections:

Section 1: Color covers (1.5 mb)

Section 2: Complete text (3.1 mb)

Section 3: Endorsements by Commissions, Boards and Voters (1.2 mb)

Large File:

Entire Document (5.8 mb)

What is a “Wild & Scenic” River?
The National Wild & Scenic River System was established by Congress in 1968 to protect certain outstanding rivers from the harmful effects of new federal projects such as dams and hydroelectric facilities. Since then 160 rivers or river segments have been protected nationwide, including six in New England. To be considered a “Wild & Scenic” river it must be free flowing and have at least one outstanding natural, cultural, or recreational value. Today, the Wild & Scenic Rivers program is being used effectively to create river protection approaches that bring communities together in protecting and managing local river resources. (Go to www.nps.gov/rivers for more information.)

How was the Wild & Scenic Study established for the Eightmile River?
A Wild & Scenic River Study is conducted to determine whether a particular river or river segment should be included in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. To establish a study of the Eightmile River, letters from town boards, area land trusts, river-fronting landowners and residents were submitted to Congressman Rob Simmons and Senator Chris Dodd requesting that a Wild & Scenic River Study be authorized and funded by Congress. The entire Connecticut congressional delegation supported the bill and on November 6, 2001 it was signed into law by President Bush (Public Law No. 107-65). The Study is expected to be completed in the fall of 2005.

What did the study process involve?
The study had three primary components:

(1) Determining if the river is eligible for inclusion in the Wild & Scenic Rivers system by demonstrating it has outstanding natural, cultural or recreational values of regional or national significance; (See Outstanding Resource values of the Eightmile.)

(2) Determining if the river is suitable for Wild & Scenic designation by substantiating local support and commitment to designation through methods such as town wide votes of support for designation and adoption of locally-based river protection actions; and

(3) Developing a locally supported river management plan that details the strategy for long-term protection of the area’s outstanding values. (See Developing the Management Plan.)

Local input, involvement and ownership are critical to a successful study. This Study provides a unique opportunity for Eightmile River towns to come together, mobilize a public input process, and realize a locally shaped vision for their communities and the future of the Eightmile River.

How does a river get designated “Wild & Scenic”?
For designation to be achieved, the National Park Service must make a positive recommendation in its final report to Congress, based on the successful outcomes of the three primary study components discussed above. A bill designating the river Wild & Scenic must then be passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.

What are the benefits of “Wild & Scenic” designation?
Wild & Scenic designation will qualify the Eightmile River for federal funding and technical support for actions and projects that help achieve the goals of the locally created river management plan, in turn enhancing and protecting the river’s outstanding values. Implementation of the management plan is directed by a locally led coordinating council.
Designation would also provide communities with special federal protection of the river. However, designation would rely on local control and self-determination and allow existing river uses to continue. It would not establish a federal park or locally undesired federal land ownership.

What role does the federal government have with a Wild & Scenic River?
The federal government, in this case the National Park Service, is responsible for reviewing and commenting on all federally funded or permitted projects to ensure they do not adversely impact the outstanding values of the river system. The study and designation does not put any land under federal control, require public access to private land, or force any changes in the local land use decision making process.

(excerpted from Study Report SUMMARY – PRINCIPAL FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS)

Eligibility
The Wild and Scenic River Study of the Eightmile River concludes that the entire mainstem and East Branch congressionally authorized study area, plus additional tributary areas of the watershed, are eligible for designation into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System based on free-flowing condition and the presence of one or more outstandingly remarkable resource value. Specific resource values covered in this report include outstanding watershed hydrology, water quality, unique species and natural communities, geology, watershed ecosystem and cultural landscape.

Classification
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act provides for three possible classifications of eligible river segments: wild; scenic; and recreational. The criteria distinguishing these classifications are based on the degree of human modification of the river and its adjacent shorelines. Based upon the applicable criteria, the most suitable classification for the proposed designated segments of the Eightmile and its tributaries is ‘scenic’.

Suitability
The Study concludes that 25.3 miles of the Eightmile and selected tributaries are suitable for designation.

This suitability is based on:

1) The adequacy of long-term protection afforded to the river’s free flowing character and outstanding resources through conservation land ownership, state and local land use controls, and topography. These forms of protection serve to prevent land use changes that would significantly degrade the outstanding resource values of the Eightmile River Watershed.

2) The development of a comprehensive watershed management plan which provides a clear guide for ensuring the long term protection of the Outstanding Resource Values of the Eightmile River Watershed as identified through the Eightmile River Wild and Scenic Study.

3) The strong support for designation and the Watershed Management Plan expressed by the study area towns through town meeting votes and the endorsements from land use commission and governing bodies.

4) The existence of an appropriate river management framework, the Eightmile River Wild and Scenic Coordinating Committee, to implement the Watershed Management Plan and to administer the watershed in partnership with the federal government if designation occurs.

Alternatives Considered
This report evaluates two Wild and Scenic River designation alternatives in addition to the ‘no action’ Alternative A:

Alternative B: Designation of the entire Mainstem of the Eightmile River, East Branch of the Eightmile River and additional third order tributary streams totaling 25.3 miles.

Alternative C. Designation of all second order and higher streams in the watershed.

Alternative B is selected as environmentally preferred based on analysis of the principal factors of Wild and Scenic River suitability.

Eightmile River Watershed Management Plan
The Eightmile River Watershed Management Plan (Management Plan) has been the primary focus of the Wild and Scenic River Study. A product of an extensive collaborative effort between the Study Committee and local citizens, land use commissioners and elected officials, the Plan contains the strategy and vision for preserving the Eightmile River Watershed and the outstanding resource values it contains. The Eightmile River Wild and Scenic Study Committee determined that these outstanding resource values depend on sustaining the integrity and quality of the Eightmile River Watershed, that these values are manifest within the entire Watershed and furthermore that the Watershed as a whole, including its protection, is itself intrinsically important to this designation. Based on this determination, the Study Committee took a watershed approach in studying and recommending management options for the river segments and the Eightmile River Watershed as a whole. The Management Plan has been reviewed and endorsed by the full range of stakeholders as noted below.

The Management Plan should be read as a companion document to the Study Report. The Study Report adds to the Management Plan only in the specific areas of Wild and Scenic River Eligibility, Suitability, and Alternatives/ Environmental Assessment – in all other areas, the more complete source is the Watershed Management Plan.

Support for designation
Citizens from all three towns voted at separate town meetings to support the Eightmile River Watershed Management Plan and Wild and Scenic designation. Each land use commission from the three towns, and the Boards of Selectmen have voted in favor of the Management Plan and designation. The Connecticut General Assembly and Office of the Governor also supported Wild and Scenic designation of the Eightmile by means of an endorsement bill. Lastly, the Eightmile River Wild and Scenic Study Committee have voted unanimously to recommend Congressional Wild and Scenic River designation.

Recommendation
25.3 miles of the Eightmile River and tributaries are recommended for designation as “scenic” under the national Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, to be managed in accordance with the Eightmile River Watershed Management Plan dated December 8, 2005. The river segments meet the eligibility and suitability criteria for such a designation, and the towns making up the study area have expressed strong support for the designation. In support of the watershed approach, the Watershed Management Plan, and to formally establish the importance of protection of the watershed as a whole, the Study Committee recommends additional language be included in the designation legislation which establishes the importance of all streams within the watershed (as detailed in section 4D).

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