WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced the Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act (CRWPA), which would formalize a partnership between federal, state, local and private entities 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, enhance flood resilience and help promote access to the Watershed’s public spaces, particularly for excluded and marginalized communities.

“The quality of water in the Connecticut River has come a long way, and today it’s one of our state’s greatest natural resources and a major economic driver for the communities it runs through. This legislation would help federal, state, and local government work together with organizations on the ground to protect the watershed for future generations to enjoy,” said Murphy.

“The Connecticut River is a cherished wonder of our state and protecting it must be a priority. I am proud to join my colleagues across New England to introduce this bill which will bolster conservation efforts and ensure that this natural treasure is enjoyed for generations to come,” said Blumenthal.

The Connecticut River, New England’s longest river, drains a 7.2-million-acre watershed 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.

Specifically, the CRWPA would:

  1. 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;
  2. Create a 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;
  3. Implement a 75% federal cost share for the grant program, except where the Secretary determines a larger cost share is appropriate; and
  4. Ensure other activities conducted by the Secretary in the Watershed would supplement, not supplant activities carried out by the partnership program.

The legislation is 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 Nature Conservancy, Kestrel Land Trust, the Connecticut River Conservancy and the Appalachian Mountain Club and more.

“The Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act would provide an essential source of dedicated funding to help protect and preserve the watershed at the heart of New England. This ongoing investment would enhance our collective ability to respond to and prepare for the mounting impacts of climate change, which challenge both the environmental and economic health of our region. We are thankful to Senator Chris Murphy for his continued commitment to the conservation of our natural resources, to Representative Jim McGovern and Senator Jeanne Shaheen for their leadership in driving this critical piece of federal legislation, and to Senators Blumenthal, Hassan, Markey, Warren, and Welch for co-sponsoring the CRWPA,” Denise Stranko, Executive Vice President of Programs for Save the Sound.

“The Nature Conservancy fully supports passage of the Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act and enthusiastically applauds Senators Blumenthal and Murphy for introducing it.  The Connecticut River has been a conservation priority of the Conservancy for many years which included recognizing it as one of the most outstanding large rivers in the United States and naming the Tidelands portion of the river in Connecticut as one of “40 Last Great Places in the Western Hemisphere.”  To stay outstanding, the river needs pro-active support and attention and that’s what the CRWPA will be instrumental in providing,” said Nathan Frohling, Director of External Affairs for The Nature Conservancy. 

“The Connecticut River flows like a lifeline sustaining the environment, economy, and people of Connecticut and beyond. As the longest river in New England, the Connecticut River is of national significance, providing habitat for fish and wildlife, the protection of clean drinking water, flood resilience, and opportunities for public recreation. The Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act is our commitment to safeguarding the river's legacy, which helps to sustain our state's natural beauty, fuel our economy, and enrich our communities. Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy is pleased to support this legislation and expresses our thanks to Senator Murphy for his leadership,” said Catherine Rawson, Executive Director of the Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy.

“The Connecticut River Watershed region includes public and private lands, critical urban greenspaces, farmland, some of the most intact forest landscapes and connected woodlands in New England, and important riverine and coastal resources which support hundreds of species of wildlife. The Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act will maximize conservation impacts across the region by supporting the implementation of a shared set of science-based conservation, restoration and protection activities,” said Joyce Leiz, Interim Executive Director of The Connecticut Audubon Society.

"The Connecticut River Watershed Partnership Act addresses an urgent need to harness the power of collaborative planning and action to address the conservation needs and climate-readiness of this vital region. The federal resources that this legislation will provide will amplify and enhance our Follow the Forest Initiative, which recognizes and actively works to conserve a nationally significant climate corridor of connected habitat between the Connecticut and Hudson Rivers extending from the outskirts of New York and Long Island Sound to Canada," said Tim Abbott, Conservation Director at the Housatonic Valley Association.

“The Connecticut River Watershed, with its long history of human habitation, is a vital element of the stories Connecticut Landmarks and our heritage partners seek to tell about the region. This proposed grant and partnership program will be a major benefit to expand access to these stories and histories – connecting visitors at museums, historic sites, and recreation sites to the larger Connecticut River landscape and watershed,” said Aaron Marcavitch, Executive Director of Connecticut Landmarks.  

U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) co-sponsored the legislation.

Full bill text is available here.