The water belongs to us all and our laws give the public a strong say in setting and enforcing standards. However, local, state, and federal enforcement of water quality standards and other regulations that protect and improve our water can be lacking.
Without a consistent and thoughtful oversight role by the public, pollution discharge and sewage treatment systems go unchecked, developments cut corners, water is wasted, standards wither. Our water and environment must be protected from misuse, pollution, waste, and the dangers of neglect and poor enforcement.
That’s why CRWC is constantly reviewing all types of permits, licenses, and development proposals for industries, businesses, cities, and governments, large and small. Sources of negative impacts on rivers and community water don’t always occur at the water’s edge. They are often the subtle, cumulative results of developments, large and small, built on ill-advised floodplain plots or sited haphazardly in upland settings that erode habitat and water quality in the drainages below. We maintain a wide vantage looking for things that can cause our resources harm.
This work is often detailed, technical, and arcane, but it makes a difference. Everyone — from citizens to business, from mammals to farms, and from fish to town governments — is dependent on clean, available, water daily.
Fighting to get the Chickley River restored
In 2011, after Tropical Storm Irene, five miles of the Chickley River in Hawley, MA were dredged, straightened, and bermed wrecking the river’s legally designated cold-water fishery. The town thought this would keep them safe from future floods, but all it did was destroy a beautiful river. CRWC intervened in enforcement appeal proceedings to make sure this unnatural disaster would be made right .
We had to fight for a place at the table, but we got one. We had to push for more and better restoration, but we got it.
Under a comprehensive settlement, the construction company ET&L and the Town of Hawley assumed responsibility for re-creating natural meanders, re-connecting the river with the floodplain, re-creating habitat such as riffles and pools, and planting trees. The construction phase of the restoration was completed in December 2012. In 2015, CRWC was hired by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), through a public bidding process, to complete tree plantings along the Chickley River. State wildlife officials identified six priority properties to work on. CRWC staff, volunteers and Trout Unlimited volunteers completed the plantings. This work, plus monitoring over the years, has been funded through fines paid by the town and the contractor.