Study and Designation Bills

March 12, 2019: Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers Act Passes!

The Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association (WPWA) and the Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Study Committee, were pleased to announce the passage of the Wood-Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by the United States Congress and President.

The bill was sponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed (RI), Senators Jim Murphy and Richard Blumenthal (CT), Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline (RI), and Representative Joe Courtney (CT). The bill was in combination with the Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act that protected lands and rivers nationwide, it also established a revolving Land and Water Conservation Fund and designated additional Wild and Scenic Rivers. February 12th in the Senate and on the 26th in the House, this bill was voted on and received outstanding majority support. This prestigious designation will provide federal funds for local efforts to protect and enhance seven local rivers for many generations to come.

 “This is a significant win for Rhode Island and for public lands and waters nationwide. I am pleased we were able to get bipartisan backing to include the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Wild and Scenic River Act in this package. These are exceptional rivers that flow throughout several communities, and some across state lines. Keeping them clean and healthy is a team effort and it’s essential for our environment and economy,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior & Environment. “This designation will help ensure new sources of funding flow to Rhode Island for river restoration, environmental education, and other community-based conservation projects. I commend everyone who worked collaboratively to rally strong community support for this effort.”

To date, over 200 rivers in 40 states across the country have been accepted into the National Wild Scenic River System, but so far none in Rhode Island have received the designation.

“This is a significant victory for Rhode Island that would not have been possible without the dedication of our local advocates who worked tirelessly to make this designation a reality,” said Congressman Langevin. “After years of hard work at the local, state and federal levels, we are taking a firm step to preserve the beauty and ecological value of the Wood-Pawcatuck waterways for generations to come. I thank my colleagues in the Rhode Island and Connecticut delegations for their longstanding commitment to protecting this natural resource.”

“Today, the President signed into law legislation that codifies the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed as an entity of the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic Program,” said Congressman Courtney. “This designation will bring much-needed funding for research and conservation to our own natural treasure in Connecticut and Rhode Island. I’m proud to have helped getting this bill over the finish line with my colleagues, and I know there are numerous stakeholders on the ground ready to get to work to preserve the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed for generations to come.”

December 12, 2014: Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act Passes!

The Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association (WPWA) and its partners, The Nature Conservancy, Save the Bay, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, are pleased to announce the passage of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act by the United States Congress.  “The bill, sponsored by Congressmen Jim Langevin (RI) and Joe Courtney (CT) in the House, and Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse in the Senate, was included with a number of other land bills as part of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act, which was passed by the House last week and the Senate on Friday, December 12, 2014.”

“The Wood and Pawcatuck Rivers are important to Rhode Island’s economy and environment and we must protect these natural resources.  I commend Congressman Langevin for his efforts to get this bill done.  This initiative could help develop a collaborative river management plan to address issues ranging from fish passages to the restoration of wetlands to assistance with flood mitigation,” said Senator Jack Reed.

The Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act will require that the National Parks Service complete a three year study to assess whether the Wood, Pawcatuck, Beaver, Chipuxet, and Queen Rivers meet the standards to be included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.  In anticipation of the passage of this act, Congressman Langevin requested a Reconnaissance Survey of the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed, which was completed in October 2013.  The survey summary stated “The NPS reconnaissance survey team has determined, based on readily available information that segments of the Wood-Pawcatuck River 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.”

An important part of the on-going Wild and Scenic Study will be the inclusion of the all stakeholders in the development of a stewardship plan for the rivers.  This process will allow for the identification of those remarkably outstanding values that make the rivers so important to the community, and a community-based plan to protect those values.

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