Patrick Administration Guts Legal Protections for Rivers

Charles River Watershed Association and Others Resign

By Eco News Network

Last Wednesday, Charles River Watershed Association and three other environmental groups resigned their positions on MA DEP’s Water Resources Management Advisory Committee after the Patrick Administration’s reversal of its policy that protection of the environment, and specifically streamflow, was fundamental in determining water withdrawal limits for rivers.

The Committee is charged by statute to provide advice and to make recommendations to MassDEP on water management laws and regulations and their implementation.  However, the agency intentionally did not convene the Committee for the past five months, and then announced this decision as final without any opportunity for Advisory Committee input.

This startling decision by the Patrick Administration reverses state policy under five prior governors, which held that protecting a river’s “safe yield” included leaving at least some water in a river to sustain fish and other river life. DEP’s new interpretation essentially says that all the water in Massachusetts rivers should be available for water withdrawals. DEP’s actions also conflict with a successful court case in which CRWA represented the Ipswich River Watershed Association and argued that withdrawals authorized by DEP exceed the safe yield of the Ipswich River basin.  The 2007 Superior Court ruling ordered DEP to redetermine the safe yield of the Ipswich basin.

You can view the complete press release on the CRWA resignation here.

Source: Charles River Watershed Association, E-newsletter, October 14, 2009, Issue 99