Five local rivers likely to be eligible for wild and scenic status

Five rivers in the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed are likely meet eligibility and suitability criteria to be included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association announced today.

The announcement was made based on the findings of a report requested by U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., in 2013. Langevin had introduced the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Protection Act in the House of Representatives, which was passed unanimously in the House and by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. It awaits passage by the full Senate.

Included in the rivers proposed for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Program is the Connecticut section of the Pawcatuck River in North Stonington and Stonington; and the Rhode Island section of the Pawcatuck in Westerly, Hopkinton, Richmond, Charlestown and South Kingston. The other rivers proposed for the program are in Rhode Island: the Beaver River in Richmond; the Chipuxet River in South Kingstown; the Queen River in Exeter, South Kingstown and Richmond; and the Wood River in West Greenwich, Exeter, Hopkinton and Richmond.

“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 alike,” Langevin said in a news release. “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.”

To be eligible for Wild and Scenic status, a river must be free flowing and possess at least one “outstandingly remarkable value.” The report states that “… segments of the Wood-Pawcatuck rivers 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 only other river in the region with Wild and Scenic status is the Eightmile River in Lyme, Salem and East Haddam.

Conservation organizations and state agencies that support the Wood-Pawcatuck joining the Wild and Scenic system are The Nature Conservancy of Rhode Island and Connecticut; Save The Bay; the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management; and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“On any given day you can find an abundance of wildlife and plants living in or along the banks” of these rivers, said Denise Poyer, program director for the association. “You’ll see fly fisherman, canoeists, 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. Besides providing great recreation, the rivers are important outdoor classrooms. We bring youngsters from all over the state to the (association) campus on the Wood River so that they can experience what a natural river looks, sounds and feels like. In a heavily populated state like Rhode Island it is vital to have and preserve these natural areas.”

For information, contact Poyer at (401) 539-9017 or denisep@wpwa.org.

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