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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pawcatuck might get some much-needed protection

By ecoRI News staff
Will this mean that the Armetta/Copar operation in Charlestown, almost
rght on the Pawcatuck will have to stop? Will the quarry be reclaimed?

Five rivers in the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed likely meet eligibility and suitability criteria to be included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, according to the recently released Wild and Scenic River Reconnaissance Survey of the watershed conducted by the National Parks Service (NPS).

The survey was requested by Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., in spring 2013. Earlier that year Langevin had introduced the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act. The bill was unanimously passed in the House and gained unanimous passage by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. It now awaits passage by the full Senate.

“The waterways of the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed are home to some remarkable wildlife and plant life, and provide recreation and fishing opportunities for Rhode Islanders and tourists,” Langevin said. “These rivers are an important part of our landscape and our economy, and inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System is much deserved.”

The rivers proposed for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic program are: Beaver River in Richmond; Chipuxet River in South Kingstown; Queen River in Exeter, South Kingstown and Richmond; Wood River in West Greenwich, Exeter, Hopkinton and Richmond; and Pawcatuck River in Sough Kingstown, Charlestown, Richmond, Hopkinton, Westerly, and North Stonington and Stonington, Conn.

The NPS examined several aspects of the rivers as they relate to eligibility and suitability. To be eligible a river must be free flowing and possess at least one “outstandingly remarkable value.” Although there are several low dams on all of the rivers, these aren’t significant enough to prevent consideration, according to the report.

The 32-page report stated that “segments of the Wood-Pawcatuck River(s) exhibit free-flowing character and noteworthy natural, cultural and recreational resource values likely to meet eligibility criteria for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. In addition, the presence of very strong community and interest group support for a Wild and Scenic River Study, together with a demonstrated track record of natural and cultural resource protection, support key elements of suitability for inclusion in the System.”

The “strong community support” comes from a coalition of conservation organizations and state agencies. While the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association (WPWA) has played the lead role, it has received support from The Nature Conservancy of Rhode Island and Connecticut and other organizations.

“Anyone who has visited these rivers can tell you about the outstandingly remarkable values,” said Denise Poyer, WPWA program director. “On any given day you can find an abundance of wildlife and plants living in or along the banks.  You’ll see fly fisherman, canoeist, kayakers, swimmers, bird watchers, and folks just hanging out and enjoying the water.  People come to this part of the state to relax, unwind, have fun, and reconnect with nature.”