A river beautiful
Congratulations to the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association whose hard work and persistence played a major role in the recent federal designation of the Pawcatuck River and its tributaries as a Wild and Scenic River.
Created in in 1983 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the association served as a strong advocate in building the case for recognizing the waterway with the designation, part of its larger mission to promote and protect the lands and waterways of the Pawcatuck Watershed. Over the past decade, local leaders on both sides of the Connecticut-Rhode Island border also played an important part in advocating for the watershed to receive this distinction.
Fourteen towns, mostly rural, are found in the watershed of the Wood and Pawcatuck rivers. The designation applies to 34 miles of the Pawcatuck River, 21 miles of the Wood River and 35 miles of the Beaver, Chipuxet and Queen rivers. Large sections of these waterways are untouched, but they also flow by ancient stone walls, the remnants of old mills and the adjoining villages, all adding their own beauty.
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed the legislation, part of a bill protecting about 1.3 million acres of land and 367 miles of new scenic-designated rivers across the country.
As far back as 2010, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District Connecticut, and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., filed legislation to begin the assessment of the area for the special designation. The pair helped steer the legislation through the recent approval process. The river straddles the border between the states.
Dating to initial approval of enabling legislation back in 1968, inclusion of a river under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System Act prohibits federal support for actions such as the construction of dams or other instream activities that would harm the river's free-flowing condition, water quality, or natural resource value.
While the designation does not prohibit development nor gives the federal government control, it does seek to protect rivers through voluntary stewardship, encourages state and local regulations to guard against potentially adverse development and helps secure funding for research and conservation.
This national designation system promotes protection of about 13,000 miles of more than 200 rivers in 40 states, representing about 0.3 percent of the nation's rivers.
This is the first such river designation for Rhode Island. The Eight Mile River watershed in Colchester, East Lyme, East Haddam, Salem and Lyme previously earned the designation in Connecticut.
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