WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation to designate portions of three New England rivers as “wild and scenic” — including two in Connecticut.
The protective designations, which make the rivers eligible for up to $100,000 a year in federal funds for conservation purposes, were included a broader public lands bill introduced earlier this year by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
The bill, which was approved 92-8, would also permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund that is used to support national parks and public lands.
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut praised passage of the bill that included wild and scenic designations for the Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook and the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed. (The third designation was for the Nashua river in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.)
“This is a big win for Connecticut and a testament to good old fashioned Yankee persistence,” said Murphy, who noted that he has worked on getting the designation for the Farmington River since first being elected to Congress as a member of the House.
The Senate voted in favor of the designation in 2016 but that bill was not approved by the House.
Murphy also credited Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representative John Larson and former Representative Elizabeth Esty with helping to win support for the designation.
The Farmington River and Salmon Brook run through Avon, Bloomfield, Burlington, Canton, East Granby, Farmington, Granby, Hartland, Simsbury, and Windsor. The upper portion of the river was given “wild and scenic” status in 1994.
Segments of the 300-square miles Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed were also designated as “wild and scenic” including rivers that cross North Stonington, Stonington, Sterling, and Voluntown.
The bill now goes to the House for its consideration.
The Center for Western Priorities is urging lawmakers to approve the broader bill saying that the Land and Water Conservation Fund has since 1964 helped protect national parks, increase access to public lands and build local parks. Authorization for the fund — which draws revenue from offshore oil and gas royalties — expired four months ago, which has meant a loss of more than $300 million in new royalty payments.