Simsbury Selectmen 'Troubled' by Proposed Water Diversion, Extension Requested

Canton selectmen to discuss issue tonight.

A letter drafted by the Simsbury Board of Selectmen and sent to the University of Conn. Office of Environmental Policy voiced strong opposition to both a proposed Metropolitan District Commission water diversion and the process under which the proposal is being considered. The board also requested a 30-day extension on the public comment period for the proposal.

Following a meeting Monday night, the board of selectmen approved a letter, signed by First Selectman Mary Glassman, that expressed the board's frustration with a proposed pipeline that would sap approximately 1.93 million gallons of water daily from the Farmington Valley.

The Canton Board of Selectmen planned to discuss the matter during their Wednesday night meeting.

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.

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. A second proposed pipleline could cost as much as $51 million, according to the proposal.

The proposal estimates that the pipeline could divert as much as 1.93 million gallons from the Farmington River basin every day.

"The proposal would go against Connecticut’s wise and long-held policy against interbasin transfers of water," Glassman said in the letter.

Public comment on the EIE is currently open until Dec. 21, 2012 and a public hearing was held on Tuesday Dec. 11 in Storrs, Conn. Simsbury officials said the process has not adequately included the towns in the Farmington Valley which stand to lose the most from the proposed water diversion.

"We and our neighboring towns did not receive any direct notice that a proposal of such importance to the Farmington Valley was under consideration.  No hearings were scheduled in our area," the letter said.

Letters of opposition to the project have been sent by other local organizations including the Lower Farmington River/Salmon Brook Wild and Scenic Study Commission and the Town of Simsbury Conservation Commission. 

The wild and scenic study commission letter suggests the Milone and MacBroom report was based on data that is nearly 20 years old.

"The steam flow study was done between 1989 and 1992 and was based on conditions in the Farmington River between 1970 and 1990," the letter said.  "Because the stream flow study is over 20 years old and was primarily focused on only part of the river, its conclusions cannot be relied on to justify a diversion today."

The letter also cites an article that appeared on Simsbury Patch in September that documented a tough summer season on the Farmington River when water levels were low and temperatures were high.

A petition is also being cirulated by the Farmington River Watershed Association in effort to stop the proposed water diversion from the valley's water basin.

Eileen Fielding, excecutive director for the FRWA, said the long-term implications of the diversion could be devestating to an already taxed water basin.

The Simsbury board of selectmen requested a 30-day extension on the public comment period and that a public hearing be scheduled in the Farmington Valley after the holidays.

"We are eager to reason with other affected parties on the best way to meet UCONN's needs on an economical and environmentally sustainable basis," the Simsbury selectmen letter said.

Patch will continue to follow this story as it develops.

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