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Thursday, April 25, 2013

House Committee Passes Langevin Bill Protecting South County Rivers

Senate Committee considering matching bill introduced by Senator Reed

WARWICK, RI – Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) applauded unanimous passage today by the House Committee on Natural Resources of legislation that would make federal restoration and conservation resources available to the Pawcatuck River, as well as other South County and Southeast Connecticut streams.

The Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act, introduced by Langevin in the House and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) in the Senate, would pave the way for the rivers to receive benefits under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which currently does not cover the South County waterways. This change would not increase federal spending.
  

“It is encouraging that the House and Senate have taken up this bill in committee so early in the 113th Congress, showing an understanding by Senator Reed’s and my colleagues that we should consider the immense value of the Wood Pawcatuck Watershed,” said Langevin, a member of the Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition. “Today’s action represents only initial steps in an extended process, but following through on this effort will be well worth it when future generations of Rhode Islanders can experience the economic and environmental advantages of providing federal funds and protections for these rivers.”

The Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources is scheduled to have a hearing that includes testimony on the bill later this afternoon. While the legislation passed the House with bipartisan support in the 112th Congress, it did not receive consideration by the Senate.

Last year, Langevin brought WPWA Program Director Denise Poyer to Washington to testify with him before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Lands about the Act’s significance for the Ocean State. Poyer emphasized the unique qualities of the waterways impacted by the bill and their many contributions to the region.

“[These rivers] represent the core of our local economy and serve as the foundation of our culture, our history, and our identity in the region,” said Poyer to the Subcommittee. “Any investment in protecting and restoring these rivers is an investment in our economy and in the future of our children and grandchildren. Local businesses depend on clean and healthy rivers to attract tourists and visitors. People are encouraged to come to our region and locate their homes and businesses here because of the natural beauty that is so close to major metropolitan centers.”

“These rivers are not only an important part of our national heritage, they are a critical part of our daily lives, especially as much of our economy relies on the health of our waters,” said Langevin to the Subcommittee. “From Colonial battlegrounds to Native American fishing grounds, the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed offers diverse destinations for tourism, a vital industry to Rhode Island and Connecticut. These rivers offer exceptional trout fishing, canoeing, photography, and bird watching opportunities, with adjacent hiking and camping for our sportsmen.”

The legislation mandates a study on the “wild and scenic” values of segments of the Beaver, Chipuxet, Queen, Wood, and Pawcatuck Rivers in Rhode Island and Connecticut to evaluate which portions provide extraordinary natural, cultural and recreational benefits that require special attention to maintain. Its passage would allow a committee made up of state, local, tribal, non-profit, recreational and agricultural representatives to proceed with an evaluation of the portions that would best fit into a special classification under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

These segments would then be designated as eligible for existing federal funds.  In addition to providing for better upkeep of those areas, the designation would prevent federal support for actions that would harm the rivers’ free-flowing condition, water quality, or outstanding resource values.

For more information on the rivers affected by this legislation, visit the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association’s website at www.wpwa.org.