Is Water Part of the Public Trust? Governor Malloy Says Yes and We Agree!
Connecticut’s State Water Plan, finalized in January 2018, is an historic achievement to coordinate the use, management, protection, and conservation of our water now and into the future. It was not only historic in content, it was a consensus-based document from four state agencies and the Water Planning Council, numerous sub-committees, a transparent and robust stakeholder process, two years and hundreds of meetings, the investment of one million dollars to engage expert consultants, and a final joint public hearing in April 2018. Public comments highlighting the importance of water as part of the public trust were referenced in the final plan and we participated in numerous meetings throughout the process, and submitted comments to the docket and formal testimony at the April public hearing in support of the Plan.
Surprisingly, the Water Utilities and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association feared that including statements about water being part of the public trust in the State Water Plan might open them up to heightened scrutiny, encroachment on their decision-making ability for managing water and even legal challenges. Together, these powerful industries lobbied against the plan written as is and were successful in getting the Committees to refrain from voting on the plan this year, sending it back to the Water Planning Council for revisions and resubmission in 2019, an unacceptable setback in implementation for another year!
Thankfully Governor Malloy stepped in, issuing Executive Order No. 66, on June 14th, requiring the implementation of the Plan and re-submission to the General Assembly, as is, in 2019. What does this mean? The Executive Order directs the Council to move ahead without delay to implement the plan and the Council is currently prioritizing next steps to address high priority issues of conservation, drought management and the over-allocation of streams through registered diversions (permissions to withdraw water).
Connecticut residents can take action today and tell their legislators that they support the Plan.
We applaud the Governor for issuing the Executive Order, but in an election year we’re not taking anything for granted. We’re educating members, mobilizing people to send letters and emails to legislators, and monitoring candidates’ positions on state water policy and climate action policies that we helped pass this year.
Count on us to work hard to protect Connecticut waters, to support the implementation of the plan without delay, and to assure that next Administration doesn't rollback the gains we’ve made. We agree that water is part of the public trust and will fight to protect it. Make sure that your legislators hear from you on this issue.