NEW BRITAIN – A proposal presented by Tilcon in 2016 to mine 131 acres of protected watershed property will probably not be taken up by the General Assembly this legislative session, state Sen. Terry Gerratana, D-New Britain told The Herald Monday.
Under the proposal, Tilcon would mine New Britain-owned protected watershed land in Plainville for 40 to 50 years before returning the land to the city as a reservoir. Tilcon would lease the land for an unspecified amount during the mining. Under a similar proposal that died in 2008, Tilcon would have paid the city of New Britain $15 million for the rights to mine the watershed which acts as a natural filter for the Shuttle Meadow Reservoir.
The legislature must vote to approve a change of use for the land in order for Tilcon to mine the property. The state Department of Health must give approval.
A law passed in 2016 carefully delineated the steps the city must take in order to get the project on the legislative agenda including hiring a consultant to do an environmental study of the area.
“We will see the study when it’s released,” said David Huck, public affairs specialist for Mayor Erin Stewart who has repeatedly stressed that the city is waiting for the release of the report before forming an opinion.
The study, which has been underway by Glastonbury-based Lenard Engineering for more than a year, has not yet been released to the city or the state Water Planning Council and Council on Environmental Quality.
Once the report is released, the two state agencies will have 90 days to review the report and submit comments to the city. The city will have 60 days to hold a public hearing on the findings of the study.
The timeframe involved will not make the deadline for this year’s legislative session which concludes in early May, said Patrick McGloin, a spokesperson for Gaffney Bennett Public Relations, which represents Tilcon.
The Tilcon proposal has been contested by environmental groups and area residents, who fought a similar plan that died in 2008. Opponents are concerned that if the plan is approved, watersheds throughout the state would be imperiled.
Tilcon pushed to get the plan approved by the legislature during the 2017 session, but the WPC and CEQ shot down a proposed 15-week environmental study in favor of a year-long study that looked at wildlife and other factors in every season.
Lenard Engineering has been required to file progress updates on the study monthly with the WPC. The most recent update filed on Jan. 2 indicated every aspect of the study has been completed except for the final report. Jim Ericson, a vice president for Lenard Engineering has not returned phone calls to The Herald for several months.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.