The District supports watershed management projects focused on protection and restoration through community-based local action. Currently the District is involved in watershed management projects in the Mattabesset River watershed, the Eightmile River watershed, and the Coginchaug River watershed.
Mattabesset River Watershed
The District has been working since 1992 on a long-term project to improve water quality conditions of the Mattabesset River, with the ultimate goal of restoring the river to fishable and swimmable conditions.
Assessment activities undertaken by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the District’s Connecticut River Watch Program have documented high levels of bacteria and the nutrient phosphorus, both from chronic sources and due to runoff; high turbidity associated with storm events; and a degraded aquatic invertebrate community. See The Mattabesset River—A Study of Water Quality and Stream Health in District publications for more information. Due to poor water quality and habitat alteration, the Mattabesset River is on the DEP’s impaired waters list.
Through a community-led process, the District coordinated development of the Management Plan for the Mattabesset River Watershed in 2002, detailing goals, objectives and tasks designed to protect the River and improve its health. Efforts in the Mattabesset Watershed have since been focused on implementing the management plan in cooperation with other watershed stakeholders. Activities have included:
- Education and outreach to streamside landowners
- Stormwater management and pollution prevention planning
- Ongoing water quality monitoring
- Tracking sources of bacterial contamination in streams
- Streambank restoration
- Development of public access areas
See the list of District publications supporting these efforts.
On-the-ground improvement projects have included establishing a vegetated buffer on Hatchery Brook in Berlin, and addressing impacts of stormwater discharges to Railroad Pond in Berlin. More recently, the District completed a water quality restoration project with the City of New Britain in Willow Brook Park.
In 2006 the District began conducting Track Down Surveys, a new field screening method for locating the causes and sources of water quality impairments. Using a modified version of the Center for Watershed Protection’s Unified Stream Assessment (USA) protocol, District staff and interns began by conducting Track Down Surveys in several streams in the Mattabesset identified as “hot-spots”: Coles Brook (Cromwell), and Little Brook (Rocky Hill and Berlin). The information is being used to identify specific restoration projects and strategies for each stream assessed. The District has continued to use these field screening methods in subwatersheds throughout the Mattabesset as part of the District’s overall effort to address water quality impairments through on-the-ground restoration and education. 2007 areas of focus included Willow and Chestnut Brooks in Cromwell; in 2008 surveys were conducted in Miner Brook in Middletown; and in 2009 a survey of Middletown’s Swamp Brook was completed.
In 2007, the District also conducted a Comparative Subwatershed Analysis of the Mattabesset, also using a Center for Watershed Protection method. This GIS-based assessment method is designed to screen smaller subwatersheds within a larger regional watershed to identify those with the greatest restoration potential, and will help prioritize future restoration and improvement activities. For more information, see The Mattabesset River Watershed Comparative Subwatershed Analysis: Developing a Framework for Watershed Restoration in the Mattabesset.
Current work in the Mattabesset River Watershed is focused on advancing restoration opportunities identified by our assessment activities.
Funding for work in the Mattabesset has come primarily from the DEP through US EPA Clean Water Act Section 319 nonpoint source grants, with additional funding from a grant from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Eightmile River Watershed
The District assisted the National Park Service supported Eightmile River Wild and Scenic Study Committee in obtaining Wild and Scenic River status for the Eightmile River. Under collaborative agreements, the District provided Geographic Information System (GIS) staff and services, and outreach and education support to the Study Committee.
In support of local watershed management efforts, the District has also co-sponsored a vernal pool identification and verification program in the three major watershed towns, East Haddam, Lyme and Salem, and assisted in documenting water quality and watershed health through the Connecticut River Watch Program.
More recent efforts have focused on supporting the Eightmile River Wild and Scenic Coordinating Committee with outreach and education efforts, as well as producing a summary and analysis of eight years of biological assessment results through the District’s Connecticut River Watch Program.
Coginchaug River Watershed
The District supported the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service effort to complete a Coginchaug River Watershed-based Plan, a template for water quality improvement that recommends both watershed-wide management practices and site specific restoration projects. The District provided a link to the local community, planning and coordinating community outreach and education activities, conducting water quality surveys, and serving on the advisory committee. Upcoming activities will focus on developing priorities for action and coordinating plan implementation in collaboration with a group of watershed stakeholders.
This work in the Coginchaug is funded primarily by the DEP through US EPA Clean Water Act Section 319 nonpoint source grants.
The District assists communities in developing and implementing restoration and natural resource protection projects with the goal of protecting and improving the health of water resources — rivers, streams, ponds, vernal pools and Long Island Sound.
Recent projects include development of a natural resources management plan for an open space property focused on balancing recreational use with protection of three high quality vernal pools on the site.
The District has also completed several town-wide vernal pool survey projects to identify and field verify vernal pools. Survey information is used by the communities in planning for development and conservation.
Agricultural Conservation and Land Stewardship
The District serves as a nexus of information exchange between private landowners and state and federal assistance programs designed to protect and conserve open space, farmland and wildlife habitat.
In partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the District promotes conservation and stewardship practices to agricultural producers and private landowners through use of federal cost-share programs. The District also encourages use of state farmland preservation and open space protection programs.
USDA cost-share programs include:
- Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA)
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
- Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP)
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
- Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)
- Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
- Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)
These programs are designed to address natural resource concerns on farmland, promote environmental quality, address water quality and quantity concerns, protect prime farmland, and protect valuable wetland ecosystems and wildlife habitat on private lands.
Up-to-date information, including current levels of funding, management practices supported, and application deadlines and procedures, can by found on the Connecticut NRCS website (Exit CRCCD).