While people are forming their resolutions for the New Year, our Connecticut River could use a few well-intentioned pledges. In that spirit, river users could make the following resolutions:
As a boater: I resolve to respect the 150-foot no wake zone along the shores of the Connecticut River and all its boatable tributaries. I know that reducing my wave action will reduce river shoreland erosion. I will respect the rule as it applies to shoreline, swimmers and other boats so my safe boating will not only protect the river but will protect other river users.
As a fisher: I resolve to give back to the river by volunteering for river habitat improvement projects sponsored by Trout Unlimited, local watershed association or towns when they call for volunteers for shoreland tree plantings to prevent erosion or help with in stream restoration work to improve habitat for fish and other aquatic species. Since I benefit greatly from a healthy, vibrant river whose fish species offer me innumerable pleasures (and food), it is the least I can do. Many hands make light work and healthy rivers.
As a resident of or visitor to the Connecticut River watershed: I resolve to throw no trash of any kind into the river or its tributaries. The tires, cans, carts, bicycles, construction debris, unidentified barrels, wire, hoses and the other trash found in the river are not good for the river itself nor for those who wish to use the river to boat, float, fish or swim. This year, I will join with the Connecticut River Conservancy and some 2,500 volunteers to remove trash from the river during the annual Source to the Sea River Cleanup usually the first Saturday in October.
As a logger: I resolve to protect the natural vegetation zone next to the river and its tributaries to reduce runoff into the river and provide valuable shade for the stream. I will follow the Best Management Practices for Water Quality Protection that leave a protective buffer zone between the river and any cutting area, skid roads and staging area to reduce sediment being washed into the river.
As a farmer: I resolve to meet or exceed the Required Agricultural Practices standards for sound environmental farming. Where I do not meet those standards, I will work with the local Natural Resources Conservation Service, Connecticut River Conservancy or the Natural Resources Conservation District to help develop protective cultivation and fertilization plans for fields close to the river. I will protect the natural vegetation along the shore to reduce runoff that carries high level of nutrients into the river.
As an elected official: I resolve to reinvest in the river and its tributaries by voting to make funds available to treat wastewater to the highest possible levels, replace aging wastewater treatment infrastructure, correct any design flaws and increase capacity when necessary due to population increases. Because the river is at highest risk of direct discharge pollution at any time since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 and despite the federal government’s abandonment of its commitment to clean water, I, as a local or state official, will vote to make the river cleaner.
As a private landowner: I resolve to protect the natural vegetation along the river from cutting or other disturbance. As a resident of New Hampshire, I will follow the New Hampshire law for required undisturbed setbacks from the river. As a resident of Vermont, where no requirements for setbacks apply to rivers due to a loophole in the law, I will use the Natural Resources Conservation Service recommendations for an undisturbed buffer along the river. Short of that and although I am a Vermonter, I personally resolve to adopt the New Hampshire setback standards for use on my property.
As an operator of a hydroelectric facility: I resolve to repay the river for the profit its waters make for our company. I will operate my facilities at the river flow levels that protect habitat for fish and other aquatic species. I will be responsible when I raise and lower the flows of the river seasonally to protect the spawning needs of fish in the river and to prevent stranding and killing aquatic species. I will ensure a working, reliable, emergency management plan is in place to protect lives and property of valley residents in the event of the unthinkable, a dam failure.
As a citizen of the watershed: I resolve to protect the river by voting for necessary bonding to upgrade wastewater treatment facilities, voting for my town to use the most river-friendly techniques for road maintenance and repair, and call on my national representatives and the president to halt airborne mercury and acid rain deposition from Midwest power plants that poison the waters and the fish in the Connecticut River watershed.
If we make and then follow through on these New Year’s resolutions, 2020 will be a happier year for the Connecticut River and for all of us who love the river.
David L. Deen is a board member of the Connecticut River Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited and an honorary trustee of the Connecticut River Conservancy.