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Farmington Valley Officials Concerned Over Proposed Water Diversion

The University of Connecticut and town of Mansfield need water and a proposed project could divert as much as 1.93 millions gallons from the Farmington Valley.

The University of Connecticut and the town of Mansfield need water. The issue they are facing is where that water will come from. One option under consideration could divert as much as 1.93 million gallons of water away from the Farmington River Watershed daily and local officials are concerned about the long-term implications for the Farmington Valley.

In June 2011 the town of Mansfield and UCONN initiated an Environmental Impact Evaluation, prepared by Milone & MacBroom, to determine the best possible resolution to their increasingly diminished water supply.

The initial EIE included 6 proposed alternatives of which two scenarios were deemed feasible alternatives.

  1. Interconnection with Windham Water Works
  2. Interconnection with the Connecticut Water Company

The rejected proposals included the construction of new well fields and the replacement of an existing well. The two feasible options would pull water from the same water basin but from points in the southern part of the state.

In the spring of 2012 a new proposal was added to the EIE. The Metropolitan District Commission, which supplies water to the greater Hartford region, proposed constructing a new pipeline from Mansfield to the company's existing infrastructure in Manchester, according to the proposal.

Of the two proposed MDC pipeline scenarios, the company's preferred scenario would be a 20-mile pipeline that would cost approximately $38.33 million and would add the potential for a new customer base in the towns of Tolland, Vernon, Mansfield, South Windsor, and Coventry, according to the proposal.

A letter sent by Margery Winters on behalf of the Simsbury Conservation Commission to the University of Conn. Office of Environmental Policy on Dec. 4, 2012 argues against the diversion of water from the Farmington River basin.

"We do not think that one can easily make the assumption that diverting 1.93 million gallons per day (and likely more in subsequent years) would not have a material adverse environmental impact on the river's habitat and recreational values," Winters wrote.

Eileen Fielding, executive director of the Farmington River Watershed Association, clarified that the proposed diversion would not be a direct drain on the Farmington River but rather a drain on the watershed as a whole. There would not be any new infrastructure added in the Farmington Valley.

"We want people to be concerned and there's a reason to be concerned," Fielding said. "But this is a long term concern."

Fielding said the proposed diversion would run counter to conservation efforts in recent years and could be the first time a pipeline was used to divert water from one water basin to another in the state of Conn.

"That is a can of worms we don't want to open unless we have to," Fielding said.

Fielding said that the initial impact of the diversion may go unnoticed unless the region is faced with a severe drought but the long-term impact could be severe.

"The way we manage flow on the Farmington River may have to change," Fielding said.

The Metropolitan District Commission argues that the project's impact on the environment and water supply will be minimal.

"This alternative meets the project purpose and need to provide a safe, reliable water supply source that that maximizes benefits while minimizing environmental, land use, and other adverse impacts," the EIE Executive Summary said.

Public comment on the EIE is open until Dec. 21, 2012 and a public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday Dec. 11. The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. in Room 146 at the UConn Bishop Center, One Bishop Circle, Storrs, Conn.

Written comments can also be sent until the close of public comment. Comments should be sent to:

Jason M. Coite
University of Connecticut – Office of Environmental Policy
31 LeDoyt Road, U-3055  
Storrs, Connecticut 06269

The Farmington River Watershed Association plans to have a petition available on their website in the near future.

David Moelling December 07, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Once again I feel the need to do a little supplementary context. Let's look at what 1.9 million gallons per day (remember journalists get your units right!) compares with the farmington rivers flows. I got the stream flow gauge for today at Tarrifville. The lowest recorded flow was 245 cubic feet/second on this date. Thats 1832 gallons per second or 158 million cubic feet per day! So at the lowest point the peak diversion considered would be 1.2%. The average flow on this date is 795 million cubic feet per day. In this case the peak draw for UConn would be 0.2%! So the outrage from the "Farmington Valley officials" seems a little overblown wouldn't you say?
Michael O. December 08, 2012 at 12:05 AM
This isn't a diversion of the river, it's taking water from wells across the Farmington Valley and sending it 28 miles miles away to Mansfield CT which is in the CT River Watershed. Translated: People with wells in the Farmington Valley will see them run dry, the various local water companies will have to drill new/more/deeper wells as their wells run dry driving up water rates. On the upside, it's a great new revenue source for MDC...at the expense of the Farmington River Valley.
John Nagy December 09, 2012 at 02:36 AM
We already have inadequate flow in Tariffville for most of the summer. This has been the situation here for the 40 years I have lived here and it's not getting any better. I am opposed to any further diversion of our water resources. This is not over blown, this is just common sense. Once the water is gone it's not coming back.
mushroom December 11, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Get real! It's another big$ project supported by the Gov. Malloy's office and puts funds into the MDC's hands, AT the expense of all TAX payers, with long term known and possible unknown ecological consequences. PATHETIC, considering there are less expensive and more logical alternatives. Go to FRWA.org, the Farmington River Watershed's Association website, sign the petition, and keep informed.

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