NEW BRITAIN - Environmental advocates say they are shocked that two state legislators and leaders of business associations want a reference to water being a “public trust” removed from the final draft of the state’s water plan.
“If water isn’t sacred and a public trust that must be preserved and conserved for both present and future generations, then nothing is,” said Plainville lawyer and New Britain resident Paul Zagorsky.
Zagorsky has been honored by the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut for his work to block Tilcon Contruction from mining 131 acres of New Britain watershed property in Plainville.
The state’s Water Planning Council has been working on drafting a state water plan for nearly three years.
The work included several public hearings and workshops around the state.
The plan makes recommendations on how water resources should be managed, said John Betkoski, chairman of the WPC and vice chairman of the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.
The council is expected to vote on the final draft of the 600-page-plus document this morning.
But two Republican state senators senate and several leaders of state business associations want what they perceive as a last-minute addition to the plan calling water “a public trust” removed from the document.
“Given Connecticut’s ongoing budget challenges, we must refrain from enacting policies that would have a negative impact on the state’s business climate and economic growth,” said Senate President Pro Tem Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and Deputy President Pro Tem Kevin Witkox, R-Canton, in a letter to the council dated Jan. 17.
A similar letter was sent the next day by representatives from the Connecticut Business & Industry Association and other business associations throughout the state.
The state entered into a prolonged drought as work was being done on the document and Tilcon revived a proposal to mine 131 acres of New Britain watershed property in Plainville.
Zagorsky and environmental advocates, including Margaret Miner, the executive director of the Rivers Alliance, are now sending the council emails asking that the language referring to water as a public trust remain.
“They perceive the concept that water is a public trust as a legal principle of water rights that’s poorly understood and feel it will be used to challenge existing claims to water rights and the existing system for managing water,” Miner said. “Each state differs on how they interpret this principle, but not to even want a reference in the state water plan? Water should be managed for sustainability, not just in 10 years, so it’s there in the future.”
The council is expected to discuss the issue before it votes on the final draft of the plan, which will be sent to the state legislature, during a meeting this morning at 10:30 at the PURA offices in Franklin Square in New Britain.