April 30, 2012

Arthur S. Johnson
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Division of Watershed Management
627 Main Street, Second Floor
Worcester, MA 01608

Subject:           Proposed Massachusetts Year 2012 Integrated List of Waters

Dear Mr. Johnson,

I am submitting comments on the proposed Massachusetts Year 2012 Integrated List of Waters on behalf of the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC).  CRWC is the principal nonprofit environmental advocate for protection, restoration, and sustainable use of the Connecticut River and its watershed.  The Connecticut River and its tributaries (including the Deerfield, Millers, Chicopee, Farmington, and Westfield River basins) take up approximately one-third of the land area of Massachusetts.

The 2012 Integrated List does not contain much new for what we will call the “greater Connecticut River watershed,” consisting of the Connecticut River mainstem, Chicopee River, Deerfield River, Farmington River, Millers River, and Westfield River basins.  Therefore, our focus turned on the amount of listed impairments vs. the pace of preparing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for these impairments.  Below is our summary of the top eight impairments for Category 5 impaired river segments that do not yet have a TMDL.  As you can see, the number of river miles that are impaired for bacteria contamination, as well as total suspended solids/turbidity are quite high.

Top 8 impairments for Category 5 Impaired Waters in the Greater Connecticut River Watershed, as listed in the proposed 2012 Integrated List (units are in river miles).

Basin E. coli/ Fecal coliform PCBs in fish TSS/ turbidity Aquatic plants/ Eutrophication/ Excess algal growth TP Macro-invertebrate assessment DO Taste & Odor
Chicopee 55.9 0 1.5 0 0 1.3 19.7 1.3
Connecticut 117.4 68.6 36.5 1.1 7.6 0 4.9 0
Deerfield 27.8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Farmington 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Millers 30.7 95.4 9.9 9.9 25.3 9.9 0 5.5
Westfield 27.4 0 35.4 27.3 0 17.8 0 17.8
Total river miles impaired 259.2 164 83.3 38.3 32.9 29 24.6 24.6

We looked with interest at the proposed TMDL schedule for FY2012-13 shown on pages 22 and 23 of the proposed 2012 Integrated List.  We are disappointed to see no TMDLs for the greater Connecticut River watershed listed.  Only nitrogen loadings for Long Island Sound makes it onto a separate TMDL-related project list as getting high priority.

In reviewing what has been accomplished thus far, we see that on pages 16 and 17, all completed and approved TMDLs are listed.  Other than the northeast regional mercury TMDL, which covered many water bodies across the state, the following table lists completed TMDLs for the greater CT watershed.

TMDLs completed in greater Connecticut River watershed Approval Date
Total Maximum Daily Loads of Phosphorus for SelectedConnecticut Basin Lakes (CN 112.0) April 12, 2002
Total Maximum Daily Loads of Phosphorus for SelectedChicopee Basin Lakes (CN 118.0) April 12, 2002
Total Maximum Daily Loads of Phosphorus for SelectedMillers Basin Lakes (CN 123.2) February 5, 2003

In sum, no new TMDLs for water bodies in the greater Connecticut River have been completed in 9 years.  No impaired river segment in the greater Connecticut River watershed has ever had a TMDL completed.  We reviewed MassDEP’s TMDL priority document from 1998, which is still on its website today.  This laid out a timeline for completing all TMDLs across the state.  This document said,

“The State of Massachusetts is committed to developing TMDLs for all impaired water bodies where TMDLs are needed by the year 2012 (emphasis ours). To achieve this goal, the Department must effectively allocate resources and rely on all watershed stakeholders to work in partnership. As previously noted, public input and feedback on setting priorities within each watershed as well as on proposed strategies and implementation measures to address water quality impairments is a central component of the State’s approach to meeting its commitments of the Clean Water Act over the next decade. Given this, the Department is proposing to utilize the watershed teams to the maximum extent feasible during the 5 year watershed cycle to help prioritize listed waters for TMDL development. Prioritization will be based upon the relative importance of each water body within the watershed, the constituent of concern causing impairment, and the degree to which analytical methods are defined, accepted, and available to achieve problem resolution.”

Originally, DEP set out with an ambitious plan to complete all TMDLs by this year.  We certainly understand that DEP’s funding has been significantly reduced since then, which no doubt has had an effect on getting numerous things done across the disciplines.  What we don’t understand is how watersheds taking up one-third of the state would be de-prioritized to such an extent that not a single river mile would have a TMDL prepared at the end of the 14-year management period.  Not only has there been no public input on prioritization within watersheds, but there has been no public input on prioritization of watersheds.  We think this is most unfortunate.

We respectfully request that DEP review its prioritization of TMDLs and look towards covering a wider area of the state.  We are waiting for the day when our rivers will be fishable and swimmable out here.  Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed Massachusetts Year 2012 Integrated List of Waters.

Sincerely,

Andrea F. Donlon

River Steward

 

cc:

Christine Duerring, MassDEP basin planner for Connecticut, Westfield, Farmington, and Deerfield Rivers
Alice Rojko, MassDEP basin planner for Millers and Chicopee Rivers
Julia Blatt, Massachusetts Rivers Alliance
Mary Garren, USEPA