The Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act (CRWPA) is an exciting new bill that was recently introduced in the House and Senate and supported by a broad coalition of public and private organizations throughout New England, including the Friends of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, the Connecticut River Conservancy, Mass Audubon, The Nature Conservancy, Kestrel Land Trust, and the Appalachian Mountain Club among others.
The bill was introduced by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), with a companion bill in the House introduced by Jim McGovern (MA-02) and cosponsored by Annie Kuster (NH-02). Additional co-sponsors include Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Peter Welch (D-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Becca Balint (D-VT), Jim Himes (D-CT), Richard Neal (D-MA), and Jahana Hayes (D-CT).
The CRWPA will formalize partnerships between state, local, and private entities (including tribal organizations, nonprofits, and institutions of higher learning) to promote conservation, restoration, education, and recreation efforts in the watershed and establish a voluntary grant program to facilitate these activities. This collaborative effort will benefit fish and wildlife habitats, protect drinking water sources, and enhance access to the watershed’s public spaces, particularly for excluded and marginalized communities. CRWPA is modeled on the Chesapeake WILD Act (2020) and the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act (2015), which have successfully established similar partnerships in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and Delaware River Basin respectively.
Specifically, the CRWPA will:
- Require the Secretary of Interior to establish a non-regulatory Watershed Partnership Program intended to identify, prioritize and implement restoration and protection activities within the Watershed in consultation with federal, state, local and non-profit stakeholders;
- Create a voluntary grant and technical assistance program for state and local governments; tribal organizations; nonprofit organizations; institutions of higher education; and other eligible entities for activities in the Watershed;
- Implement a 75% Federal cost share for the grant program, except where the Secretary determines a larger cost share is appropriate;
- Authorize such sums as are necessary to carry out the program; and
- Ensure other activities conducted by the Secretary in the Watershed will supplement, not supplant activities carried out by the partnership program.
The Connecticut River, New England’s longest, is a vital watershed that drains 7.2 million acres across five New England states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. The Watershed is home to 396 communities and provides multiple environmental and economic benefits to diverse stakeholders and industries, including fisheries, farming, hunting, recreation, boating and tourism. The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge encompasses the entire Watershed and is the only refuge of its kind in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Connecticut River is also one of just fourteen Federally recognized American Heritage Rivers in the United States.
You can read the Senator’s press release and the full bill text here, and refer to the Friends of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge web page for a full list of supporting representatives and organizations.
Image above: Connecticut River Looking North to Mount Tom and Mount Holyoke, South Hadley, MA. Photo by Al Braden.